Erdogan vows to lift Turkey’s state of emergency if re-elected


ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged for the first time that he would immediately lift the almost two-year state of emergency in place since the 2016 failed coup if he is re-elected in this month’s polls.

Erdogan declared the state of emergency five days after the July 15, 2016 failed bid to oust him from power. An unprecedented purge that has seen some 55,000 arrested has taken place under the measure.

The state of emergency has become a campaign issue in the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections, with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Iyi (Good) Party vowing to end it.

“After June 24, if I am given the right to continue in office, our first step will be, God willing, to lift the state of emergency,” Erdogan said in an interview with 24 TV late Wednesday.

His comments came after CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu vowed that its candidate for the presidency Muharrem Ince would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours if elected.

Ince tweeted on Thursday: “After the elections I will take the oath and as I take office we will immediately lift the emergency.”

Erdogan had on June 8 said: “There could be the question of lifting” the state of emergency after the election but this is the first time he has made such a clear pledge.

The emergency has been criticized by activists who say the measure has been used against all opponents of Erdogan and not just plotters in the coup, which Turkey says was masterminded by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. Gulen denies the charge.

Leftist and Kurdish activists have found themselves behind bars including the former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas who is running against Erdogan in the elections.

Erdogan indicated that lifting the state of emergency would not necessarily mean an end to the crackdown.

“Lifting the state of emergency does not mean completely eliminating it or returning back to as we were,” he added.

“If we see terrorism, we will again take the strictest measures,” he said.

Analysts are forecasting that the parliamentary and presidential elections will be tight, with Erdogan possibly set to be pushed into a run-off and with his ruling party at risk of losing its overall majority.

Meanwhile a survey by pollster Gezici published on Thursday has found Erdogan falling short of a first-round victory in Turkey’s presidential election, with his support dipping 1.6 points in one week.

The poll also showed his ruling AK Party was forecast to lose its parliamentary majority in the June 24 vote.

Gezici’s survey of 2,814 respondents, conducted on June 2-3, showed Erdogan receiving 47.1 percent of votes in the first round of presidential election, down from a level of 48.7 percent in a survey which it conducted a week earlier.

The poll showed that the AK Party’s alliance with the nationalist MHP would fall short of a majority in the 600-seat assembly, with 48.7 percent of the votes, unchanged from the figure in the previous survey a week earlier.

In another development, Turkish authorities on Thursday detained 18 suspected Daesh (the so-called IS) members in Istanbul and Izmir, two of Turkey’s biggest cities, officials said.

In an operation by Turkey’s intelligence agency and counterterrorism police, 10 suspected militants were detained in the Aegean coastal province of Izmir, a security source said.

Eight more suspects were detained in Istanbul on Wednesday, police said. The suspects were thought be providing financial support to the organization, had traveled to and from conflict zones and been trained to carry out suicide bombings, it said. It added that three more suspects were still being sought.

Daesh has carried out numerous bombings across turkey in recent years, including an attack on a nightclub in Istanbul on Jan. 1, 2017, in which 39 people were killed and a bombing in the city’s historic heart that killed 12 in 2016. — Agencies