ANKARA (Al Jazeera) – President Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Turkey will hold elections on May 14, a month earlier than scheduled, setting up a tight test of his leadership after two decades in power.
The president’s office released video footage of Erdogan announcing the date during a meeting with young voters in the northwestern province of Bursa late on Saturday, according to Reuters.
“I am grateful to God that we will be walking side by side with you, our first-time voting youth, in the elections that will be held on 14 May,” Erdogan told the group.
The 68-year-old leader has been in power for 20 years and faces his toughest electoral test in years amid record inflation.
Erdogan has overseen years of economic growth in the country that saw Turkey join the ranks of middle-income countries.
Recent years of unorthodox economic policies, however, have seen the government battling inflation that has depleted people’s savings and seen real wages go down.
Opinion polls show the parliamentary and presidential elections will be tight, and will mark Erdogan’s biggest test in his two decades at the reins of the regional military power and NATO member.
Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held on 18 June, but Erdogan previously signaled that the vote could be brought forward.
An official of his AK Party had previously said that an election in June would coincide with the summer holiday season when people would be travelling.
But the date announced on Sunday is also very symbolic.
On May 14, 1950, Turkey held its first democratic elections resulting in the Democrat Party (DP) winning a landslide victory over the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
The victory of the DP marked the end of the single-party rule that had dominated the country since its founding in 1923 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded it.
The AK Party has its roots loosely in the DP, and Erdogan is looking to pitch the historic defeat of the CHP party in 1950 as one that his party looks set to repeat.