Re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Devlet Bahceli, the leader of his ultra-nationalist coalition partner, have reportedly agreed to not extend Turkey’s state of emergency, pro-government daily Sabah reported on June 28. It is set to expire on July 19, nearly two years to the day it was activated.
Two days ago fears grew that the emergency regime, introduced after the July 2016 coup attempt, would be extended further at the urging of the MHP. Anxiety spread after Bahceli’s deputy, Mustafa Kalayci, called for the special regime’s retention and Bahceli almost simultaneously released 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 party representatives.
The unequal campaigning conditions for the opposition prior to election day and events under the state of emergency—such as the purging and jailing of tens of thousands of people said to be linked to the coup plotters and Turkey’s emergence as the biggest jailer of journalists in the world—has led some academics to conclude that Turkey is no longer a democracy and simply saw its authoritarianism consolidated by the election outcome.
Although he secured a first-round outright victory in the presidential contest at the weekend, Erdogan saw his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lose its parliamentary majority in the elections. However, polling day saw MHP far outperform expectations. The AKP, with 295 of parliament’s 600 seats, and the MHP, with 49, can thus control parliament by voting together. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 146 seats, pro-Kurdish HDP, with 67 and presidential candidate Meral Aksener’s fledgling Iyi (Good) Party, with 43, would struggle to make any impact in the legislature by combining their voting strength.
Erdogan “not desperate”
“But Erdogan is not desperate for those six [MHP] votes [to obtain a parliamentary majority],” Murat Yetkin wrote on June 28 in his latest column for Hurriyet Daily News. He added: “Firstly, there is an alternative in parliament—the Iyi Party. Secondly, if the AKP opens its doors to such a move, there might be more than six deputies from other parties who would want to make use of the opportunity to join the government party to help it have a parliamentary majority without being obliged to have the approval of another party, be it the MHP or Iyi. Therefore, it could be possible that the MHP will provide certain suggestions for the AKP’s legislative moves in parliament, while not having the possibility to assume that it will have open-ended power to restrict or stop the AKP.”
Sacit Aslan, one of the founders of the Iyi Party, said on June 27 in a televised interview with KRT TV that "just to make laws, AKP needs a handful of MPs. It could also take the support it needs from the Iyi Party. If it is a beneficial law for the survival of the state and future of the nation, the AKP does not need MHP, it could make it with Iyi".
Iyi was only able to run candidates in the parliamentary elections because the CHP ‘lent’ it 15 of its MPs to allow the party to comply with electoral law.
Also on June 28, Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist who writes for daily Hurriyet, wrote that Erdogan and Bahceli had agreed to sustain their coalition in the post-election era. However, awarding MHP seats in the new cabinet to be determined by the president was not on the agenda, according to Selvi.
Ilnur Cevik, a top advisor to Erdogan, wrote in his June 28 column in daily Yeni Birlik that “the West will either learn or learn to live with Erdogan, and to cooperate with him.” Turkey’s foreign ministry on June 27 hit out at the European Union for hypocrisy and inconsistency after EU ministers endorsed a report saying Ankara is “moving further away” from the bloc and its membership bid is not going forward. Like the CHP, the EU has expressed fears that Turkey is coming under one-man rule, with Erdogan set to be the country’s first executive president, the post of prime minister to be abolished and parliament to lose some of its powers.
Meanwhile, friction that has emerged between lower-level officials of the AKP and MHP has not abated. The MHP filed appeals over some ballot box counts in Adana and Duzce where it lost parliamentary seats to the AKP by small margins.
“Unfortunately, we are witnessing some attempts to paralyse our nation’s will,” MHP deputy leader Feti Yildiz said.
On June 27, it was announced that MHP deputy head Sefer Aycan was removed from his post by Bahceli after he reportedly said in post-election remarks: “What we want will happen in parliament, we saved Erdogan”.
Criticisms from mafia leader
On June 25, pro-MHP news portal Bengu Turk published withering criticisms of Erdogan and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu made by jailed mafia leader Alaattin Cakici.
Prior to election day, Bahceli visited Cakici in a hospital where he is receiving medical treatment and the MHP has repeatedly called on the government for a general amnesty for prisoners excluding convicts such as terrorists and child abusers.
Meanwhile, the MHP continues to attack its critics with harsh rhetoric. Party deputy head Semih Yalcin said on June 28 in a statement that “our glorious nation will pluck out the tongues targeting MHP”.
Sabah on June 28 published a report headlined: “Election results confirm nationalism is on the rise in Turkey”.
"… Turkey went to the polls under an unofficial international economic blockade. Thus, to see the nationalist parties gain power in this election was not surprising," Adil Gur, owner of pro-Erdogan polling company A&G, told the daily, referring to the country’s currency and debt woes which the president and his allies tend to blame on unidentified foreign actors on the markets.
“The ruling AKP, which entered the political scene as a centre-right party with heavily liberal values, is actually a nationalist party now, which can be seen clearly in the rhetorical change made by the party since the Gezi Park protests in 2013,” Oguzhan Bilgin, a University of York Ph.D. graduate, told Sabah.
“[The AKP and the MHP] not only came together to increase their vote, they also confirmed that there is a similarity between their political stances," Bilgin also said.