Ultra-nationalist MHP, an ally of Islamist Erdoğan, defines Turkey’s main opposition CHP as ‘national security problem’

MHP deputy chair Oktay Öztürk.

Oktay Öztürk, the deputy chairperson of Turkey’s ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has formed an alliance with the Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the upcoming presidential elections, has defined Turkey’s main opposition Republican People Party (CHP) as a “national security problem” on Wednesday.

Releasing a written statement on the behalf of the MHP on Wednesday, Öztürk has claimed that the CHP has taken the same stance with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on the issue of Turkish military operation in Afrin province of northern Syria. Öztürk has stated that:

“As we prefer the CHP to be the main opposition party, to contribute to the national unity, to produce alternatives, to develop solutions, they prefer to be main treason party by creating tension, provoking chaos, dividing and destroying (the nation). While they have continued their vicious, meaningless, inconclusive intra-party debates, they have also competed with each other in order to dilute and blacken the Olive Branch Operation. They have also attacked our party, which is the unchanging address of the national unity, with the lies, the slanders and the insults. Therefore the CHP continues to become more and more serious national security problem.”

The bid by the AKP and the MHP to form a coalition for the upcoming presidential elections is an alliance for a “one-man regime,” has said CHP spokesperson Bülent Tezcan on February 14. “The alliance, dubbed a ‘national and native coalition,’ is actually a one-man coalition. It is an attack on Turkey’s State of Law. It amounts to destroying democracy and the law,” Tezcan said after his party’s central executive board meeting in Ankara.

His comments came after Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül stated on Feb. 14 that the AKP and the MHP have almost completed their joint effort to build a legislative basis to form a pre-election alliance ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2019, after which a constitutional change shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system will fully go into effect.

Tezcan said President Erdoğan’s introduction of the new system will cause a “further disturbance in Turkey’s peace” and blasted the accord between the MHP and the AKP as “not national.” “With this alliance, they are dividing the nation. They are trying to stigmatize everyone who is not one of them as a terrorist,” he added. “But in Turkey you either stand for ‘one-man alliance’ or you stand for democracy, justice and peace,” Tezcan said.

Even before work on the AKP-MHP alliance formally began, MHP Chair Devlet Bahçeli had announced that his party would support Erdoğan’s presidential candidacy in the 2019 election. The two parties had both also teamed up to campaign in favor of the constitutional changes during the April 2017 referendum.

The two parties have worked on legislative harmonization necessary to allow the coalition since Jan. 18 when the first official meeting was held. The AKP and the MHP have agreed on a 26-article legislative package that would pave the way for formal a pre-election alliance, following a face-to-face meeting between President Erdoğan and Bahçeli.

The legislative package, which paves the way for a pre-election alliance, has been submitted to the parliament by joint commission members of the AKP and the MHP on Wednesday. “The 26-article proposal makes amendments in different laws on electorates, local elections and political parties. Not all of the articles are about election alliances. There are changes about local elections. Some changes are about previous experiences and election security,” said Parliamentary Constitutional Commission head and AKP lawmaker Mustafa Şentop at a press conference on Wednesday, which was held after the legal package was submitted.

A joint commission of AKP and MHP members had finalized work on the legal package, which took its final shape after President Erdoğan and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s meeting on Feb. 18.

The presidential election necessitates at least 50 percent of the votes for a president to be elected in the first round and the AKP’s polling at present estimates the party to be at around 40 to 45 percent. Polls also indicate a drop in the MHP’s votes with Bahçeli’s support to constitutional change, which has been criticized by the opposition for paving the way for an even more authoritarian system in Turkey.

The pre-election alliance to be formed by the ruling AKP and the MHP will be called the “People’s Alliance,” President Erdoğan has said, one day before a legislative proposal is submitted to parliament. “You can call it the People’s Alliance,” Erdoğan said on Tuesday, answering reporters’ questions following the AKP’s parliamentary group meeting.

Following “22 hours of work in nine separate meetings,” the “National Alliance Commission” has prepared a draft proposal, finalized after MHP leader Bahçeli and Erdoğan’s meeting on Feb. 18, Bahçeli told his party group at parliament on Tuesday. The legislative package includes provisions that will allow political parties to enter into elections as an alliance, while keeping their political party emblem on ballot papers and maintaining the 10 percent electoral threshold. The MHP has been insisting on keep its political identity especially in parliamentary elections, as it wants to keep a record of the votes it has received and continue to enjoy treasury grants.

In alliances where there are more than two political parties, a party could prepare a joint list of lawmakers with one political party while preparing a separate list of lawmakers with other. For example, if an alliance is formed between the Islamist AKP, the ultra-nationalist MHP and the Islamist-nationalist Grand Unity Party (BBP), the AKP could prepare a joint list with the BBP while the MHP could enter the alliance with its own list.

BBP leader Mustafa Destici has also said that they support the pre-election alliance between the AKP and the MHP. “We have made it clear since the beginning that we would support and join the alliance. For now, everything is going well for us to be in the alliance,” he said in an interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk late on Tuesday.

“We act based on our country’s interests; nothing else, and I believe this alliance will be beneficial for Turkey,” Destici claimed. When asked if they had reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Destici did not give any details and said everything has gone well for them to join the alliance, calling on the Saadet Partisi [Felicity Party] to join it as well.

Destici also added they would not have a problem with recognizing Erdoğan’s candidacy in the 2019 elections. “If we call it an ‘alliance,’ of course we will have a common candidate. It would be unrealistic to be in the alliance and come up with another candidate,” he said.

Turkey will hold joint parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019, with the AKP and the MHP heralding President Erdoğan as their joint candidate in the vote for the position of president. After the vote a constitutional amendment shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system will fully go into effect.

With the new regulation, political parties in an alliance will be located next to each other on ballot papers, while the name of the alliance will be written above their emblems. The votes of the parties will be counted separately and the sum of their votes will make up the alliance’s vote.

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