Opposition leader Babacan says Turkey may hold elections next year, but 2023 more likely

Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister who quit the ruling party last year to found the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in March, told BBC Türkçe there is a chance Turkey may hold early elections in 2021 or 2022. 

Babacan said that he did not expect an early election to be called before the next one is scheduled in 2023 because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is currently in a weak position.

But while Babacan said an election this year during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak was very unlikely, he added: “I see the probability of an election to be slightly higher in 2021-2022.”

There has been speculation recently among some in opposition circles and in parts of the media that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may call early elections, as he has in the past when it has been advantageous to him.

Babacan, formerly a leading figure in the AKP, was followed to his new party by other politicians who disagreed with the course taken by the ruling party in recent years. The establishment of DEVA in March and former AKP prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Future Party in December led to speculation that rifts in the ruling party could pose a strong challenge to Erdoğan.

But the DEVA leader told the BBC that his party’s relationship with former president Abdullah Gül was only consultative, and that Gül was no longer engaged in active politics. Babacan denied that DEVA had spoken to Gül about him being the party’s presidential candidate in the next election. 

Addressing rumours that the government may change the voting system for future presidential elections to enable an easier victory for Erdoğan, Babacan said that the Turkish people would not accept such a move and that it would only hasten “the journey to the end” – by which he seemed to imply Erdoğan’s defeat at the ballot box. 

“When ground starts to be lost, and support starts to be lost, the rules of the game are changed," he said. “This does not hold in our society, it has been tested many times.”