Bahçeli says MHP will not form alliance with Erdoğan’s AKP for Turkey’s local polls

Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced on Tuesday that his party would not form an alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the March 2019 municipal elections amid a growing row between the two parties over a debate on “nationalism” and a proposed amnesty law, signaling an end to the “People’s Alliance” they had formed earlier in 2018.

“We are going to draw up our own plan for the local elections. We are pulling back from our suggestion for an alliance,” Bahçeli told his parliamentary group on Tuesday. “No alliance can survive if one party is rejected and forced to step back,” he added.

The AKP has lashed out at the MHP over an ongoing spat on a proposed general amnesty bill and the reinstated “Student Oath,” independent news site T24 reported. AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik on Monday responded to recent statements by Bahçeli on the Student Oath, which was reintroduced into the country’s primary schools earlier this month following a decision by Turkey’s Council of State.

Çelik hit back at Bahçeli over his criticism of the AKP’s Constitution Commission chairman Bekir Bozdağ, who stated that the Council of State was in violation of both the constitution and the law through its decision.

The Student Oath was taken out of schools with a reform proposed by the AKP as part of a “democratization package” in 2013, 80 years after it was introduced by Education Minister Reşit Galip in 1933.

Çelik also stressed that the AKP was nearing an end to its work on a proposed general amnesty bill.

The MHP brought forward an amnesty law in September, which aims to “relieve pressure’’ on overcrowded jails and release inmates who are behind bars due to “politically influenced judges.’’ Tens of thousands of prisoners, including those behind bars on drug-related crimes, are expected to be freed from Turkey’s jails under the proposal before the country’s parliament.

“Our president will be releasing a statement when it is concluded,’’ Çelik said regarding the bill. “We are coming close to an end.’’

Bahçeli on Monday also hit back at the Turkish president, who said the proposed general amnesty may lead to the AKP being remembered as a power that “forgave the sale of drugs.’’ Bahçeli took to Twitter in response, calling Erdoğan’s words “inappropriate and disreputable attributions’’ to both himself and his party.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdoğan on Tuesday praised the People’s Alliance between his party and the MHP. Addressing the AKP parliamentary group meeting, Erdoğan said his party wants to carry the alliance into the future. “We see the People’s Alliance as one of the most important recent gains of our country, and we want to carry it into the future,” Erdoğan stressed.

Erdoğan said they have never done anything that would harm the spirit of the alliance, adding that his party would not be involved in any such act. Respecting Bahceli’s decision, Erdoğan said each party should go their own way in the local elections, slated for March 31, 2019. Erdoğan also claimed that a difference in views should not cast a shadow over the People’s Alliance.

Legal experts have said the general amnesty proposal, to which Erdoğan has expressed reluctance, is likely to include murderers, rapists and drug traffickers.

The Turkish lira slid against the US dollar after Erdoğan’s key political ally withdrew from a planned alliance ahead of local elections in March. The lira, which rallied this month after fears of a currency crisis abated, dropped 2,2 percent to 5,79 per dollar at 2:01 p.m. in İstanbul. It dropped to as low as 5,87 earlier in the day, the weakest in more than a week.

The MHP and the AKP had formed the People’s Alliance for the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections, which led to Erdoğan’s election as the first executive president of Turkey.

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