2021: The longest year for President Erdoğan

2021 will be the longest year for AK Parti and Mr. Erdoğan whilst he tries to fend off calls for an early election in his darkest hour where he needs to convince the public that the country is on the right track leading to 2023. The opposition, on the other hand, needs to organize and convince the public it is the only way out.

Lately, the leadership of the CHP seems to be changing its discourse. Together with CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s call for an early election, Oğuz Kaan Salıcı’s organization of meetings between provincial party leaders at CHP headquarters signaled a different kind of planning. At first, I did not take the calls for early elections too seriously and dismissed them as empty rhetoric. But now, it seems, this is becoming a strategy. CHP leadership will aim to convince the public that an early election is needed to bring stability to the country. They need to do this before things start getting better for the AK Party.


The AK Party is going through its most troubled period. Our Turkiye Raporu reports have been showing for some time that society’s economic issues are at their highest level. The loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in living costs, primarily due to the devaluation of the Turkish lira, are further issues that have joined the level of unemployment, which has been high since the beginning of 2019. It seems as though the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will be present in 2021 as well. Under these conditions, the government is looking to benefit as much as it can from its legal term, which does not require elections until 2023, and wait for an uptick in the economy. This is the correct course. After all, things can’t go badly forever.


We asked in our June and November polling surveys whether there is a need for early elections. The percentage of those who answered “yes” in June was 32.8%, while in November, it was 44.7%. However, this is not enough demand to force Erdoğan to hold an early election. If the main opposition wants to benefit from this troublesome period for the government through early elections, then these rates should increase significantly to the point at which the government cannot argue against them.


There are legitimate grounds for this strategy by the opposition. During the first years of his tenure as main opposition head, Kılıçdaroğlu avoided being aggressive in his criticism. In that period, there was a lot to criticize, but the country was in a steady state both economically and politically. Back then, that was the right strategy. However, today, the balance is different. The current political picture points to instability and increasing societal dissatisfaction. This time, calling for early elections is not about creating instability, but rather, the contrary: seasoned politician and head of the Felicity Party, Temel Karamollaoglu, remarked on October 15 that "early elections are important and beneficial for stability."


2021 will be the "longest year" for the AK Party and Mr. Erdoğan as he tries to fend off calls for an early election, all in his darkest hour in which he will need to convince the public that the country is on the right track in the lead-up to 2023. The opposition, on the other hand, needs to organize and convince the public it is the only way out.