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Turkey to hold snap polls on November 1: Erdogan


ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that he would call snap elections likely to be held on November 1, after coalition talks failed in an unprecedented political impasse.

Erdogan, who suffered a rare political setback in inconclusive June polls, said he would meet the parliament speaker on Monday to make the arrangements and then formally call the new elections.

“We will take our country to early elections,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“God willing, Turkey will have the elections again on November 1.“

A deadline for political parties to agree a coalition following the June 7 election runs out on Sunday, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failing to form a coalition.

The AKP remained the largest party but lost its overall majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002, in a blow to Erdogan’s authority over the country of 75 million people.

Erdogan’s comments indicated that he would use his right to call elections as president, rather than using the alternative route of agreeing the new polls through a motion in parliament.

“Can the president call early elections according to the constitution? Yes he can!” said Erdogan.

Opponents have accused Erdogan of seeking early elections all along and meddling in coalition talks in the hope the AKP will improve on its vote in new polls.

After Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu failed to agree a coalition led by the AKP, Erdogan notably refrained from offering the second-placed Republican People’s Party (CHP) the chance to do so.

The opposition has accused Erdogan of violating the constitution but the president said he would not meet CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who refuses to set foot in his controversial new presidential palace.

“Why shall I invite the one who does not know Bestepe?” he said, referring to the Ankara district where the palace is located.

‘Emerge victorious’ –

The election will come as Turkey fights an “anti-terror” offensive against Kurdish militants and jihadists, with some critics accusing Erdogan of seeking political gain out of the conflict.

Turkish forces claim to have killed 771 militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in operations including air strikes in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey over the last four weeks, the state news agency Anatolia said on Friday.

Meanwhile, some 50 Turkish soldiers and police have also been killed in attacks blamed on the PKK, with their funerals a daily event on Turkish television.

“With God’s permission, we will emerge victorious, the blood of martyrs will not remain on the ground,” said Erdogan.

But the CHP scoffed at Erdogan’s comments.

“Every day young people are dying, the economy is on the verge of crisis, there is no government and meanwhile Sir (Erdogan) is making caprices about his palace,” said CHP MP Sezgin Tanrikulu.

The situation is unprecedented — the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey has never seen repeat snap elections after the collapse of coalition talks.

The CHP and third-placed Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have both so far refused to take part in such a unity government, leaving only the fourth-placed Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which the AKP accuses of being a front for the PKK.

It remains to be seen if the AKP will improve on its vote share of just under 41 per cent in the new polls, and commentators have described Erdogan’s strategy as a major political gamble.

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