Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has gained big support from the smallest faction in Parliament to further boost his campaign for the 2019 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announced on 8 January that it would throw its weight behind President Erdogan which indicated crucial right- wing support considering his narrow victory in last year’s constitutional referendum.
The MHP is the smallest of the Turkish parliament’s four factions. With its support of Erdogan, the President now has sweeping executive powers with 51.4% of the vote.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli made the announcement in a news conference:
“The MHP will not submit a presidential candidate. The MHP will take a decision to support Erdogan in the presidential elections.”
The MHP was founded by a Alparsian Turkes, former colonel who was involved in a 1960 military coup. The political party advocates Turkish nationalism and has exhibited guarded scepticism toward the West. It does not favour autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
The group’s support base was once identified with a nationalist youth movement called “The Grey Wolves” which in the 1970s, regularly fought street battles with leftist supporters. One of its most notorious members was Mehmet Ali Agca who famously tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.
For the past two decades, Bahceli has worked tirelessly to break the MHP from its association with rightist street gangs. His concern right now is to secure MHP’s place in Parliament for 2019.
According to Turkish law, a party needs a minimum of 10% of the vote to enter Parliament. Bahceli seeks a reduction in the minimum number of votes.
During the 1999 parliamentary election, the MHP secured 18% of the vote. However, its mandate fell to 9.2% in the 2002 elections. Since then, the party has performed better gaining more than 11.9% of the votes in the November 2015 elections.
Bahceli is also facing a potential strong challenger in Meral Aksener who is likewise a prominent nationalist. Aksener is a former interior minister who was part of the MHP until she broke away last year and founded her own political party.
According to surveys, Aksener and her party could figure very well in the elections and deprive MHP of its much-needed 10% vote. An option for Bahceli and MHP is to accept an alliance with Erdogan’s AKP Party.
Turkish people will exercise their right to vote for the new Presidents as well as members of Parliament in 2019.