Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Other Contenders: A Look at the MHP (Turkey Local Election coverage 2014, 4)

In my last election update, the Major Contenders, The AKP andthe CHP, I explained how despite the ongoing corruption scandals linking Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to a billion-dollar corruption scandal, that this might not radically change the outcome of the local elections; nevertheless, some voices in the AKP have started to lower expectations. Days ago, Huseyin Celik, deputy leader and party spokesman, stated that even if the party supports remains at 38.8% of the total vote, they will see this as a success (considerably less than what the %49.9 the party received in the 2011 national elections).

Just after I submitted my update last week, new tapes were released, with one revealing that Erdogan had called his son Bilal the morning of the December 17, ordering him to “hide” all the (illegal) money he had in his house. Erdogan has remained adamant that the recording was subjected to “montage,” and that it is a fake (something I think that even a good number of his supporters find hard to believe).  For Erdogan’s opponents, the tape confirms that he is at the top of the corruption pyramid. 
While there is no doubt that the CHP will be able to increase their votes by a few percent due to corruption scandal if national elections were held (see former article), the party that could gain the most from possible disgruntled AKP voters is the far-right MHP (the Nationalist Action Party), currently under the leadership of Devlet Bahceli, since 1997.
Similar to the CHP, the MHP has steadily rebuilt itself since the initial shock of the AKP’s 2002 victory; let us not forget that in 1999, the party raked in 18% of the vote, coming in as the second largest in the parliament. However, even if it was voted out of parliament in 2002, it retained a base of over 8%, not like its two former coalition partners (DSP, ANAP) who were made irrelevant ever since. Since 2005, the MHP has kept a steady stream of support of at least 13% of the vote, making it the third largest party.
As for the local elections, in 2009, it fared relatively well, receiving nine municipalities. However, making gains on the local election front will be difficult and if they are able to retaint he number of municipalities they control now  (or lose only one-or-two) , that in itself will be a sufficient to keep them relevant for a gain in the 2015 national elections.

The MHP 2009 Local elections brought them 9 municipalities (in blue)
The reason the MHP has the chance of increasing its power base in national elections is due to its right-wing, semi-conservative agenda, which is much more appealing to some AKP voters than the leaning left CHP. For example, while AKP supporters are giving their support to Erdogan’s attempts to reach a peace agreement with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, it seems safe to say that some of Erdogan’s supporters are skeptical about this process to say the least. 
Furthermore, as Erdogan continues to “reshuffle” the police force (thousands of police have been stripped of their positions in the wake of the December 17 probe), the likely choice of these policemen will be to return to the MHP, a party once identified as having a large police constituency. The ripple effect of lost votes from the police could spread far and wide; we are not just speaking of the policemen who were “reassigned” positions, but their families, extended families, and fellow co-workers, for example.
In fact, it is no secret that the MHP has something to gain from the AKP’s difficult days. Increasingly, Erdogan is attacking Bahceli, and even has gone so far as to try to humiliate him emphasizing that Bahceli has never married and does not have children (a big no-no for Erdogan, who continuously preaches to his followers to have at least three children, if not four!)
The fact that Erdogan sees Bahceli as a threat was also made known recently in leaked tapes between the Prime Minister and an executive at Haberturk television. In one conversation, just as the Gezi Protests took over Turkey, Erdogan requested Bahceli’s critical statements be removed from the TV channel’s ticker feed, and in another, he ordered that station manipulate a poll by taking points from the MHP and adding them to the Kurdish party, in order to show greater support for his attempts to make peace.

My next blog will be on the mostly Kurdish BDP/HDP and what might be in store for them in the local elections.....

FOLLOW ME on TWITTER @istanbultelaviv for more on whats happening in Turkey and Israel/Palestine, and the Middle East at large. Contact: louisfishman@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment