(Bloomberg) --

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working on the assumption general elections will be held in Turkey three months from now despite twin earthquakes devastating much of the southeast this week. 

Erdogan, who is facing one of the toughest electoral races of his two decades in power, announced 90 days of emergency rule effective from Wednesday. It allows him to take swift security and financial measures in the areas stricken by the disaster, which has killed more than 8,500 people in Turkey. 

Officials familiar with the discussions said Erdogan announced the 90-day measures and then plans to hold the vote straight after on May 14 as originally planned. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. The emergency actions could also end before the full 90 days, the people said. 

The presidency declined to comment.

Quake Latest: Turkey Declares Three-Month State of Emergency

On Wednesday, Erdogan visited some of the quake-hit regions, which are home to populations that tend to vote for his AK Party and are essential to his success at the polls. 

Speaking on a visit to a tented community of displaced people in Kahramanmaras, one of the worst-stricken towns, Erdogan promised to rebuild areas near the epicenter within a year and said he’ll tour the entire quake zone this week.  

“We aim to rebuild homes in Kahramanmaras and nine other provinces within one year,” Erdogan said, before heading to another quake-affected area in Hatay province. 

Erdogan Vows Building Blitz to Renew Quake-Hit Areas Within Year

Erdogan has called the temblors the “biggest disaster not only in the history of the republic but also in the world,” and has mobilized his government for rescue and recovery operations.

Bloomberg Economics estimates public spending after the quakes may be equivalent to 5.5% of gross domestic product over two years.  

‘Disaster Response’

“If the disaster response is strong, the ruling administration will be rewarded likely in the polls,” Tim Ash, emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said in a note on Wednesday. “If it is poor, the opposite.”

TURKEY INSIGHT: Public Spending on Quake May Be 5.5% of GDP (1)

The government’s capacity to rescue people and deliver aid to the roughly 13.4 million people in the disaster zone is now the top issue for Erdogan ahead of the vote. The government allocated 100 billion liras ($5.3 billion) for initial response but rescue work is being hampered by harsh winter conditions in areas that also house millions of Syrian refugees. 

Turkey’s parliament failed to convene on Wednesday but is expected to hold a procedural vote on the emergency rule the following day. The extended powers enable Erdogan to issue decrees, suspend or restrict basic rights and freedoms or take extraordinary security measures. 

Under emergency rule, the government can prioritize public spending to address harm caused to quake victims or commandeer money, property or labor. It also enables authorities to tap into resources of financial institutions if public funds fail to provide the financing necessary to meet urgent and vital needs in time.

Mending Divisions?

Erdogan called several of his political rivals after the earthquakes, telling them the country should transcend political differences in order to overcome the devastation. He didn’t call the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has said the country was ill-prepared for the disaster and blamed Erdogan personally. 

“I don’t need to be in solidarity with Erdogan and his palace,” Kilicdaroglu said in a video posted on Twitter early Wednesday after he visited the quake zone. He accused the government of corruption and squandering taxpayers money earmarked for preparing for such disasters. 

Why Turkey’s Next Election Is a Real Test for Erdogan: QuickTake

Since winning elections in 2018, Erdogan has assumed greater executive powers. But while those give him the ability to postpone the vote for one year at times of war, a natural disaster does not give him that automatic right. For the vote to be pushed further back from a June deadline, the governing party must reach an agreement with political rivals to amend the constitution.

The president needs to officially trigger the election process by around March 10 for the ballot to take place mid-May. If he refrains from doing that, the vote would have to be held on June 18, but the chances of that happening are slim, the officials said.

--With assistance from Beril Akman.

(Updates with remarks from Erdogan, analyst comment starting in fifth paragraph.)

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