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As Turkish lira crumbles, Nov. 1 election date is floated | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tourists count their money after changing foreign currency to Turkish lira at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Tourists count their money after changing foreign currency to Turkish lira at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Tourists count their money after changing foreign currency to Turkish lira at a currency exchange office in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakır, Reuters—Turkey’s election commission has proposed that any snap parliamentary election should be held on November 1, officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on Thursday, reinforcing the sense that a re-vote is inevitable after June’s poll yielded no working majority.

The lira currency, already at record lows on a combination of political uncertainty and rising militant violence, fell more than 1.5 percent, briefly weakening beyond the psychological barrier of 3 to the US dollar for the first time.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu formally gave up his attempt to find a junior coalition partner on Tuesday, more than two months after the AKP lost its overall majority for the first time since coming to power in 2002.

If, as now seems likely, no one else can form a coalition by Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is very likely to call a new election.

AKP officials said the High Election Board had proposed November 1 as the date. But even that failed to assuage market worries about the 870 billion dollar economy.

“A coalition would have been good for investor confidence, but now we have more uncertainty and I don’t think the result will change with new elections,” said Vedat Mizrahi, a managing director at financial services firm Unlu & Co.

“It is really tough right now. There is almost no foreign institutional investor interest in Turkey.”

The lira was 1.6 percent weaker at 2.9745 to the dollar at 11 am GMT, and is now down over 20 percent against the dollar this year, making it one of the worst performing currencies among its emerging market peers. Istanbul’s BIST 100 stock index dropped 1.7 percent to 74,055.

“We’re getting poorer by the day,” said 44-year-old elementary school teacher Nevin, who was shopping for groceries at a supermarket in central Ankara. “Now they’re going to knock on our doors and ask for our votes? How dare they? Shameless politicians.”

Power-sharing cabinet

Erdoğan, founder of the AKP, could still in theory ask the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to try to form a government.

However, the CHP has shown little sign of being able to assemble a majority, and local media quoted Erdoğan as telling a meeting of village administrators that he would not “waste time” with those who did not know the address of the presidential palace, an apparent reference to the head of the CHP.

Instead, Erdoğan has indicated that he will summon an interim “election cabinet” to lead Turkey to a new election.

This would see power temporarily shared between four political parties with deep ideological divides, although even that prospect is uncertain as two of those parties, the secularist CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have said they would not take part.

The political crisis has coincided with rising political violence, some of it linked to Turkey’s growing involvement in the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Investors looking to the central bank for an independent steadying hand have been disappointed.

The bank declined to raise interest rates at its monthly policy meeting on Tuesday, in what investors saw as acquiescence to political pressure from Erdoğan.

“The [central bank] is in ‘rabbit in the headlights’ mode again,” said Tim Ash, credit strategist at Nomura. “You have central bank independence for a reason—Turkey does not have enough of it these days.”

More attacks

On Wednesday, gunmen fired on police outside the Dolmabahçe palace, popular with tourists and home to the prime minister’s Istanbul offices.

The Istanbul governor’s office said two members of a “terrorist group” armed with hand grenades and an automatic rifle were caught after Wednesday’s attack on the palace.

Militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) also killed eight soldiers with a roadside bomb in the southeastern province of Siirt, the military said, intensifying a conflict there after the breakdown of a two-year ceasefire last month.

Shortly before the bomb attack, Turkish F-16 warplanes had hit and destroyed PKK shelters along Turkey’s border with Iraq, the Hürriyet newspaper said on its website. The report could not immediately be confirmed.

The unrest in the NATO member state comes weeks after it declared a “war on terror,” opening up its air bases to the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), launching airstrikes on Kurdish militants, and detaining more than 2,500 suspected members of radical Kurdish, far-leftist and Islamist groups.

Security forces have killed 18 PKK militants in clashes across Diyarbakır province in the last two days, Anadolu said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack at Dolmabahce palace, where the two assailants opened fire on police guarding the entrance.

Police sources said the two had been detained in the past in connection with attacks by the leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), according to Dogan news agency.

Davutoğlu was in the capital Ankara as reports of the shooting emerged and did not interrupt a speech he was giving live on television.

In response to the PKK attack, a nationalist opposition party called for an extraordinary meeting of the National Security Council and the declaration of “martial law” measures in parts of the country in line with constitutional provisions.

“Security must be established with martial law measures in a section of the country, covering provinces and districts where there are scenes of violence and horror,” MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said in a written statement.

Turkey has been on heightened state alert since launching what Davutoğlu described a “synchronized war on terror” in July, exposing it to reprisals from ISIS sympathizers, Kurdish militants and leftist radicals alike.

A fighter proclaiming allegiance to ISIS appeared in a video this week urging Turks to rebel against “infidel” Erdoğan and help conquer Istanbul.

The DHKP-C claimed responsibility earlier this month for an attack on the US consulate in Istanbul, in which two women shot at the building. One of the attackers was hurt in an exchange of fire but there were no other casualties.