JERUSALEM, Israel – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for early elections Wednesday, 18 months ahead of schedule. Turkey's electorate will go to the polls on June 24 of this year instead of November 3, 2019.
In a nationally televised speech, Erdogan said his intention is to dispose of the "diseases" of the "old system."
The Turkish president hasn't hidden his plan to move from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system, building on a referendum that passed by a narrow margin last year.
"Developments in Syria and elsewhere have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country's future in a stronger way," Erdogan said.
An analysis posted Thursday in Britain's The Guardian calls Erdogan "a deeply divisive figure" with a declining international standing. The article cites a recent poll that shows Erdogan's national approval just under 50 percent, while slightly more than 42 percent of those polled disapprove of the direction he's taking the country.
"By bringing the polls forward, Erdogan is finally set to gain full, personal control of all key aspects of domestic and foreign policy," the author states. "He will become a dictator in all but name, more powerful perhaps than even Kemal Ataturk, modern secular Turkey's founding father."
According to the analysis, "…politicians in Paris, Berlin, London and Washington no longer see a reliable friend and ally in Turkey," but rather an autocrat "exploiting nationalist and neo-Islamist sentiment, xenophobia and Europhobia."
The article further points out Turkey's increasingly close alignment with Russia, which gave Erdogan "tacit support" for his military assault on Afrin in northwestern Syria.
"Turkey is increasingly on the wrong side of a global argument between freedom and control," the article concludes.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press quoted Fadi Hakura with Chatham House, who called the rescheduled elections " an indication of panic and worry."
Hakura said changes to the Turkish election system "make it improbable for the opposition to win any general election in Turkey."
"These really serious changes to the election law will, I think, make any serious challenge by the opposition highly improbable."
Since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan has steadily tightened his grip on Turkey by arresting, jailing and otherwise opposing anyone, from political rivals to journalists, who do not support his vision.