Turkish lawmakers switch parties in challenge to Erdogan
ISTANBUL (AP) — More than a dozen Turkish opposition lawmakers switched parties Sunday in a show of solidarity as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rivals scramble to challenge him in a surprise snap election that could solidify his rule.
Officials from the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, said 15 of its lawmakers would join the center-right Iyi Party. The CHP, which is the main opposition party, said the decision was borne out of “democratic disposition.”
The snap presidential and parliamentary elections called for June 24 last week caught Turkey off guard. The opposition is in disarray as it struggles to put forward candidates and campaign plans. The elections were initially supposed to take place in November 2019.
Turkey’s electoral board announced Sunday -hours after the opposition moves- the Iyi Parti would be among the 10 parties eligible to run, according to the country’s official Anadolu news agency.
The decision may help ease tensions. The Iyi Party, established last fall, had faced eligibility issues before the early elections, including not having enough seats in parliament.
As a result of the transfers from CHP, the Iyi Party, which means “Good Party,” now has 20 lawmakers in parliament, satisfying an eligibility requirement. The other way to ensure eligibility was to establish organizations in half of Turkey’s provinces and completing a general congress, all to be completed six months before voting day.
The party says it has already fulfilled those requirements as well.
Iyi Party founder Meral Aksener, a former interior minister, is considered a serious contender against Erdogan and has announced her candidacy. She defected from the main nationalist party allied with Erdogan, whose leader called for the early elections.
Aksener, 61, can now run in the presidential contest once her 20 deputies put her forward as a candidate.
Candidates without political parties need to secure 100,000 signatures from the public.
A year ago, Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to change Turkey’s form of government to an executive presidency, abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving the president more powers. The change will take effect after the next elections.