Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday officially set parliamentary and presidential elections for May 14, a month early and just three months after earthquakes that left millions homeless across southern Turkey.
“Our nation will go to the polls to elect its president and parliamentarians on May 14,” Erdogan said in a televised speech after signing off the decision, little more than a month after the quakes killed almost 50,000 people in Turkey.
Erdogan said the elections had been brought forward because the planned date of June 18 date with university exams, summer holidays and travel to the Hajj pilgrimage.
The vote will be Erdogan’s biggest test in his 20 years in power, and decided not only who leads Turkey but how it is governed, where its economy is headed and what role it may play in easing conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East.
On Monday, the six-party main opposition alliance named Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as its candidate to challenge Erdogan for the presidency.
Erdogan said his campaign would focus on recovery after the earthquakes and would not use any music. All parliamentary candidates from his AK Party will have to make a “generous” donation to the earthquake fund of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), he said.
A decree published in the Official Gazette said survivors of the earthquakes would retain their voting rights if they had moved, meaning they will be able to vote in the cities where they currently reside.
Erdogan said more than 47,000 people had died in Turkey due to the earthquakes, bringing the overall toll, including those killed in Syria to more than 53,000.
More than 600,000 homes collapsed or were severely damaged across the region, according to official data.
Polls suggest that both the presidential and parliamentary votes will be tight, with the opposition bloc running slightly ahead of the governing alliance.
The bloc has vowed to reverse many of Erdogan’s policies on the economy, civil rights and foreign affairs in what many see as the most consequential election in the republic’s 100-year history.