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Erdogan at a political rally today. Photo: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Earlier this spring, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a big bet on timing — moving up his country’s general elections by 16 months to June 24, he reasoned, would make it easier to lock in a fresh mandate before a slowing economy and growing opposition complicated things.  

Why it matters: Given his broad influence over the media and the courts, as well as the emergency decrees that he’s used since a failed 2016 coup to silence or marginalize opposition figures, Erdogan and his AKP party, who’ve been in power since 2003, are still the electoral favorites. But this election’s not quite the shoo-in that it might once have seemed.

For one thing, Erdogan’s policies have recently thrown the Turkish currency into a tailspin that has raised questions about his ability to continue delivering economic growth.

  • The international creditors who’ve helped fuel Turkey’s economic boom don’t like the country’s rising inflation. But the central bank has long been under pressure from Erdogan to keep interest rates low to benefit the small businesses that make up a key part of his political base. Investors’ patience for Erdogan’s meddling has started to fray recently.  

At the same time, Turkey’s beleaguered opposition has been surprisingly unified.

  • Large and small parties have joined together to increase their chances of gaining seats in parliament, and the leading presidential challengers, the fiery nationalist Meral Aksener and Muharrem Ince, a largely secular politician of humble origins who has made inroads with Erdogan’s base, have pledged to support each other if either makes it to a second round against Erdogan. That could pose a stiff challenge for him.

The bigger picture: Over the past year, there have been several cases when world leaders tried to time elections to their advantage, only to see things blow up in their faces — we’ve got Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Britain’s Theresa May, and Italy’s Matteo Renzi on line two. While Turkey’s strongman Erdogan is still in a much more commanding position than most, June 24 can’t come soon enough. ​

Go deeper: The year of the strongman.

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company, and follow @saosasha on Twitter.

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.