Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that is set to form a ruling parliamentary coalition with re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), on June 26 published a hate-list of 70 columnists, academics, journalists and polling company managers whom he accuses of producing false and malicious statements and incriminating claims against his nationalists.
The day also saw Bahceli’s deputy, Mustafa Kalayci, call for another extension of Turkey’s state of emergency, in effect since the July 2016 attempted coup, despite signals from senior AKP figures in recent days that the time may have finally come to end it.
The MHP leadership’s moves will intensify fears that Turkey is set to endure authoritarian one-man rule under Erdogan with the backing of the MHP. The June 24 elections ushered in a new era for Turkey—after more than a century of being a parliamentary republic it is becoming a presidential republic with an executive president, no prime minister and a parliament with curtailed powers. Since Turkey came under its emergency regime, giving Erdogan the power to rule by decree, the country has become the world’s biggest jailer of journalists and scores of media outlets have been forced to close. Even the country head of Amnesty International has been jailed in purges pursued against tens of thousands of people.
Bahceli’s list, which includes the names of 70 media figures, was broadcast on Bengu Turk TV (see foot of this article). The accompanying statement from Bahceli was also published as a full-page advertisement in pro-Erdogan dailies Hurriyet and Sabah.
“I thank them for their countless slanders. I thank them for their shocking claims,” Bahceli said in the advertisement, sarcastically headlined: “A Thank You Message”. He accused those on the list of attempting to discredit his party “non-stop” before the elections. The MHP confounded the opinion polls by taking 11% of the parliamentary vote, around twice what it was expected to win. There has been some speculation that Bahceli may become deputy executive president to Erdogan but other analysts feel he may prefer to exert his party's power over the president and the AKP from the shadows.
“We will never forget what they have done, what they have written, what they have destroyed,” Bahceli also said in the advertisement featuring a photograph of crowds gathered on the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge in Istanbul.
The Journalists’ Association of Turkey (TGC), Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) all denounced the list and advertisement.
“We cannot talk about democracy in this country if political party representatives make lists of journalists and writers whom they are not pleased with,” the TGC said in a statement.
The TGS also put out a statement, saying: “MHP leader Bahceli has every right to respond to journalists and writers who make criticisms. But accusing our colleagues of running a ‘defamation campaign’ is crossing the line. We are not afraid of those who target journalists by publishing a list of names.”
Sometimes fraught relationship
It is too early to say how Erdogan may respond to Bahceli’s call for the state of emergency to be extended. His AKP and Bahceli’s MHP have a sometimes fraught relationship, with Bahceli often reminding its election alliance partner not to take his party for granted when it comes to controlling parliament and setting a course for Turkey.
Speaking to CNN Turk on June 26, deputy MHP leader Mustafa Kalayci demanded that the emergency powers be maintained because, he claimed, threatened actions from the so-called Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETO), said by the government to have been behind the attempted putsch, still posed a danger. Another reason, he said, was that the Turkish armed forces’ incursion into northern Iraq to target Kurdish PKK militants in the Qandil Mountains was still under way. The Turkish parliament on April 18 approved extending emergency rule for the seventh time. It is scheduled to expire on July 19.
The MHP would not bargain for cabinet seats with Erdogan, Kalayci also commented in his television interview.
The AKP lost its absolute parliamentary majority in the elections. Of the 600 seats, it holds 295. The MHP has 49, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) 146, the pro-Kurdish HDP 67 and presidential candidate Meral Aksener’s Iyi (Good) Party 43.