Turkey \'swiftly\' heading towards early elections

Friday 14/08/2015
Political drama

ANKARA - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey was heading rapidly towards early elections after efforts to form a coalition government failed.

"We are once again swiftly heading towards an election," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara, adding that the only solution in the current political impasse was turning to the "will of the nation".

Erdogan's comments came a day after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu informed the president he had failed to form a coalition government following talks with the opposition.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in the June 7 polls for the first time since it came to power 2002, forcing it to seek a coalition partner.

Under the constitution, the president should now be obliged to give a mandate to form a coalition government to the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which came second in the election.

But Erdogan on Wednesday hinted that he would not do so, just days ahead of an August 23 deadline to form a new government.

"I have no time to lose with those who do not know the address of Bestepe," where his controversial new presidential palace is located, he said.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has refused to set foot in Erdogan's palace, which the opposition party has called "illegal".

According to the constitution, the AKP will be able to continue as a minority government until elections if a majority in parliament votes in favour of holding the early polls.

If however Erdogan uses his right to call the election himself, a so-called "election government" will be formed until the polls, consisting of members from all four parties represented in parliament.

The elections should be held 90 days after being called, meaning that November 22 would be a possibility were Erdogan to call the polls shortly after the August 23 deadline.

The political drama comes as the government wages an unprecedented "anti-terror" offensive against jihadists and Kurdish militants, although it vehemently denies the strikes were launched in the hope of giving the AKP a boost at the ballot box.

So far, Turkish air strikes have overwhelmingly concentrated on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has responded by tearing up a 2013 ceasefire and waging a bloody campaign against the security forces.

In the latest violence, eight Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack blamed on the PKK in the southeastern Siirt province, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Erdogan said Turkey faced a problem of forming a new government at a time of "terror," accusing the PKK for working "to divide our country" despite AKP steps to improve Kurds' cultural and language rights.

He said the government had invested 260 billion lira ($89 billion) in the Kurdish-majority east and southeast over the last 12 years.

"I am either on the side of my state or terrorist organisation. You will make the choice. If we are going to die, we will die once but die like a man," he said.

The PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, took up arms for self-rule in the southeast in 1984, waging a bloody insurgency which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Erdogan vowed the campaign against the PKK would continue.

"Terrorists will lay down arms. They will not only lay down arms but also bury them under concrete."