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Turkey: Erdogan signals May elections despite earthquake

March 1, 2023

The president has said a national vote, originally due in June, would take place in May. Doubts have been raised as to whether the vote could be carried out in regions hit hardest by the February 6 earthquakes.

President Erdogan spoke to a parliamentary meeting of his AKP party
President Erdogan spoke to a parliamentary meeting of his AKP partyImage: Mehmet Kaman/AA/picture alliance

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday signaled that national elections would take place in May, despite a devastating earthquake that killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey.

"This nation will do what is necessary on May 14, god willing," Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The remark was an apparent reference to the parliamentary and presidential vote originally scheduled for June 18 but changed to avoid a clash with holidays.

Mounting criticism over quake

Erdogan's government has taken hefty criticism over the high death toll in the quake that struck both Turkey and Syria.

Although many construction firms and contractors are facing legal consequences over buildings that collapsed despite being relatively new, observers say that the problem ran deeper.

At home and abroad, critics have pointed out that the AKP has spent years granting amnesty to builders and homeowners for code violations that made structures less safe.

Turkey-Syria earthquakes and their aftermath

The government has also been blamed for humanitarian aid being slow to arrive after the February 6 quake.

What did Erdogan say?

Erdogan has acknowledged some "shortcomings" immediately after the disaster, but blamed severe winter weather and blocked roads.

"There were shortcomings, disruptions and delays," however Erdogan asserted Wednesday night that  emergency responders "rushed to help earthquake survivors with all our might."

He added that the government was "not hiding behind excuses."

Shortly before the earthquake, the AKP had slowly been regaining support in the polls following a major slump brought on by an economic crisis and soaring inflation.

Serious doubt has been raised about the ability of election officials to set up and secure accessible polling locations in the hardest-hit regions of Turkey in the coming months.

es/ar (AFP, Reuters)