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Turkish election board allows Iyi Party to run in elections

Iyi Party was formed in protest against the nationalist MHP's alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)
Iyi leader Meral Aksener has announced her candidacy to run for the Turkish presidency (AFP)

Turkey's Supreme Election Board announced on Sunday that the Iyi party would be allowed to run in the country's upcoming presidential and parliamentary election. 

The report of the decision came hours after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition secular CHP party said they had switched to the Iyi Party to ensure it would be able to run in the snap polls.

Fears mounted that the Iyi Party would not be eligible to run, as Turkish electoral law states that Iyi needed to have held a party congress within six months of an election. 

The party was formed in October after Iyi's founder and former interior minister, Meral Aksener, left the nationalist MHP party, following its decision to ally with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Parties with 20 or more deputies are recognised as groups in parliament and then automatically have the right to run candidates. The CHP has 116 members in the 550-seat parliament after the departures.

The unusual move was necessary to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, CHP officials said. The president is widely seen as the most popular - and divisive - politician in modern Turkish history.

"Our friends will not go down in history as MPs who left their party. They will go down as heroes who saved democracy," CHP spokesman Bulent Tezcan told a news conference.

"This is not an easy task. It is a hard one. But these days of one-man rule are where we show our strength and ability to accomplish hard tasks."

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Erdogan's Justice and Development Party said it would fight the election in alliance with the MHP in a bid to gain the nationalist vote, while the secular CHP party said it would ally with Iyi after agreeing to a set of principles and policy areas. 

Iyi, which mostly consists of former MHP members, is at the centre-right of Turkey's political spectrum. 

Aksener announced her intention to run for president while the CHP has yet to put forward a presidential candidate. 

Snap elections by Erdogan

Erdogan stunned opposition parties after deciding last week to move parliamentary and presidential elections forward to 24 June this year.  

During his announcement, Erdogan cited economic instability, the recent operation in northern Syria and a need to "overcome uncertainty" as reasons for moving the polls forward from their planned November 2019 date. 

"Even though the president and government are working in unison, the diseases of the old system confront us at every step we take," he said in a speech broadcast live on Wednesday. 

"Developments in Syria and elsewhere have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system to take steps for our country's future in a stronger way. 

"As a result of consultations with Mr Bahceli, we decided to hold elections on June 24, 2018, a Sunday," the president said, referring to MHP chairman Devlet Bahceli.

The June election will usher in Erdogan's new super-presidency system, which was approved by a referendum last year but by a narrower majority than the AKP and the sitting president had predicted.

The last parliamentary elections in Turkey took place in November 2015, only a few months after the June 2015 elections saw the ruling AKP losing its parliamentary majority.

It regained its majority in the November elections, but the period in between saw violence re-erupting in the Kurdish-majority southeast of the country, which some election observers said risked the validity of the vote