Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started campaigning for his re-election, saying he would certainly win the snap vote called for June.
“I believe we will make a political history on June 24 with record votes both on parliamentary and presidential elections,” Erdogan said Saturday while addressing thousands of flag-waving supporters in the coastal city of Izmir.
The rally in Izmir marked an unofficial start of Erdogan’s campaign as he has yet to formally declare his candidacy for the elections.
A victory for the leader of the ruling AK Party would mean extended powers as president for Erdogan based on amendments to Turkey’s constitution which was approved by voters in a referendum last year. In an unexpected move last week, the Turkish president called the elections more than a year earlier than scheduled, saying his administration was facing numerous legal problems, including economic challenges and the war in Syria, that could be solved only with a more powerful presidency.
Rights campaigners and international organizations have expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the elections which would come under a renewed state of emergency in Turkey. The measure has been in place since a failed coup two years ago, allowing the government to jail or dismiss more than 200,000 people over suspected links to coup plotters.
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Monitoring Committee, an international watchdog, said the emergency law could undermine the legal bases of the elections.
Erdogan’s AK party is tipped to win the elections as it has formed an alliance with the national opposition party MHP. Polls show that Erdogan may go through a second round on July 8 as winning in the first round needs a candidate to gain more than 50 percent of the votes.
Erdogan promised his supporters in Izmir that he would certainly win, calling Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition CHP party, a main challenger, a dictator. The CHP, however, said Kilicdaroglu would be unlikely to run, saying a political party leader should not be president.
Two other main challengers include Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed former co-leader of pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, and Meral Aksener, the founder of nationalist Iyi (Good) Party who served for a time as Turkey’s interior minister.