Turkish Lawmakers Swap Parties in Effort to Challenge Erdogan

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s main political opposition came to the rescue of a smaller party, enabling it to overcome a legal bar to competing in June’s elections in the first major sign of cooperation to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Fifteen lawmakers from the CHP on Sunday switched to the recently formed Iyi Party, helping it reach the minimum of 20 lawmakers set as a condition for taking part in the parliamentary and presidential polls. Turkey’s election board subsequently authorized Iyi to run. Hoping to capitalize on a divided opposition, Erdogan last week ordered both votes to be brought forward from November 2019.

CHP spokesman Bulent Tezcan said the decision to bolster Iyi ranks was intended to avoid “traps placed in front of democracy.”

The June 24 elections are among the most pivotal in modern Turkish political history. Voters will elect an executive president with sweeping powers -- from setting the budget to appointing ministers and judges -- while the job of prime minister will be abolished.

Amid angry scenes in parliament on Monday, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused Erdogan of taking Turkey toward one-man rule with “no separation of powers.”

The president shot back, criticizing the opposition parties and saying it was a “disgrace” that annual Children’s Day celebrations had been overshadowed by a row among lawmakers.

“Their only goal is to target Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had said Sunday. “They are only interested in plans that will harm the country.”

A Gezici survey of voting intentions carried out before the elections were brought forward suggested Erdogan was the most popular presidential candidate, but lacked the 50 percent support he will need for a first-round victory, according to Sozcu newspaper.

Erdogan led Iyi party chief Meral Aksener in a hypothetical run-off vote, it said, by 45.6 percent to 41.8 percent, with 12.6 percent undecided. Gezici polled 3,864 people on April 14 to 15.

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