President Tayyip Erdogan’s government is inclined to hold Turkey’s elections as scheduled in June, having cooled on the idea of postponing due to this month’s devastating earthquake, three officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Last month Erdogan, aiming to extend his rule into a third decade, said he was bringing the presidential and parliamentary votes forward to May to avoid holidays in June. Polls suggest they would be present his biggest electoral challenge yet.
Days after the quake struck on Feb. 6, killing more than 42,000 people in Turkey, an official said it posed “serious difficulties” for holding elections on time. Now those close to the president say the government has turned against the idea of a postponement.
“It is very likely that an agreement will be reached on holding the election on June 18,” a government official said, adding that Erdogan and his nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli would meet to reach a final decision.
He said a shadow was cast over the idea of a postponement by the perception that the government was avoiding elections, by the opposition’s negative response to the proposal, and by legal issues relating to the constitution.
He and the other officials were speaking anonymously as they were not authorised to speak publicly on the issue.
The presidency and Erdogan’s ruling AK Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the timing of the election.
Before the disaster, Erdogan’s popularity had been eroded by the soaring cost of living and a slump in the lira. He has since faced a wave of criticism over his government’s response to the deadliest quake in the nation’s modern history.
Turkey launched a temporary wage support scheme and banned layoffs in 10 cities on Wednesday to protect workers and businesses from the financial impact of the earthquake.
The government official said a May election, as Erdogan previously planned, would leave little time for election authorities to prepare and make logistical arrangements for the voting of those affected in the quake zone, home to some 13 million people.
A senior AKP official also said the view had gained weight that elections should be held on June 18.
“Erdogan and Bahceli will discuss the issue and make a final decision, but at the moment it seems that May 14 is too early and both leaders will say OK to June 18,” he said.
Another senior Turkish official also said the idea of postponing the elections had been shelved.
“If there were going to be a delay, it would take a one-year delay for it to be of value. The public doesn’t like that at all. Partly for this reason, June 18 is seen as the actual date at the moment.”