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Turkish president calls snap election to expand his authority

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets members of AK Party during the group's parliamentary group meeting on Feb. 13 at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara. Erdoğan has called for snap elections in his country to take place on June 24. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for snap elections in his country to take place on June 24.

The election would change Turkey from a parliamentary republic into a presidential republic, granting the leader of the country with expansive new powers. Elections were not supposed to take place in Turkey until November 2019.

Here's what you need to know

Erdoğan, who has led Turkey since 2002, has been increasing his power and cracking down on the opposition since a failed coup in July 2016. Opposition leaders have been jailed, making the prospect of a fair election unlikely.

The country has been in a declared state of emergency since the coup, and the Turkish Parliament is expected to renew that for a seventh time, further restricting the freedom of Turkish citizens.

Erdoğan has been trying to lead his country away from secularism and back to its Ottoman Islamic roots. The coup also pushed Erdoğan to repair his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Even though the president and government are working in unison, the diseases of the old system confront us at every step we take,” Erdoğan said in a televised address, according to The Guardian.

“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 … We discussed Mr Bahçeli’s call with our relevant authorities. We came to the agreement that we should approach this early election positively.”

Devlet Bahçeli, mentioned in the address, is the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Erdoğan has formed an alliance between the MHP and his own party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

How could this affect the rest of the world?

Turkey has been increasingly agressive in Syria. In March, Turkish forces seized the Syrian city of Afrin, which was controlled by ethnic Kurds. Turkey views the PKK, a Kurdish militant group active in Turkey since 1978, to be a terrorist organization, and does not see a distinction between this and other Kurdish groups.

Erdoğan and his government view Kurdish-held territory so close to the Turkish border to be a threat. The United States and the European Union have also both designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, but have allied with other Kurdish groups in the Middle East, including in Turkey.

Turkish attacks have been pulling America's Kurdish allies away from fighting the Islamic State, in order to defend its own territory. It also pulls Kurdish rebels from their fight against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who, like Erdoğan, is a close Putin ally.

Turkey has also been a member of NATO since 1952, and has the second largest military in the alliance.

One last thing…
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