Turkey’s government in disharmony: What is happening between AKP and MHP?

With MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s latest exit, discussions have started about what is happening between the People’s Alliance partners and whether they will continue on the road together.

After the March 31st elections, while the normalization process between the AKP and the CHP continues, MHP President Devlet Bahçeli’s latest outburst has led to discussions about what is happening between the partners of the People’s Alliance and whether they will continue on the road together.

Following the CHP’s good results in the local elections, a process of “normalization” or “détente” was initiated between the CHP and the AKP, and the leaders of the two parties, President and AKP Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP Chairman Özgür Özel met twice.

Erdoğan and Özel met for the first time on May 2 and for the last time on June 11, with the next step being the Cyprus peace operation ceremonies on July 20.

What happened during the process?

While discussions about how and for how long this process between the AKP and CHP will continue, as well as the developments in the Sinan Ateş murder case, Bahçeli’s latest outburst has once again stirred Ankara’s lobbies.

“If the Nationalist Movement Party is considered and described as a barrier to the sustainability of the ordered atmosphere of normalization and détente, and if there is a broad alliance in this regard, our responsibility is to risk all kinds of sacrifices for the sake of our country and nation, and to do what is necessary with peace of mind,” MHP leader Bahçeli said.

Bahçeli also spoke about the view of the more moderate wing within the AKP that an alliance with the MHP would be a loss for the party and said: “Taking into account the constant muddying of the water by the dissatisfied section within the AKP, it is the sincere wish and wish of the Nationalist Movement Party that a broad-based alliance between the AKP and the CHP is formed and that this is supported by the other elements of the six-party table.”

However, a few hours after this statement, AKP Spokesperson Ömer Çelik made a post on his X account that slightly extinguished the fire of the discussions. Çelik said the following:

“The People’s Alliance, which was established to protect our country from the dangers it faces and to carry it strongly into the future, continues on its way with determination. As the People’s Alliance to achieve the goals of the Turkish Century, we will continue to sign strong policies to carry our country into the future and serve our nation. As emphasized by our President and General President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, our will in this regard is complete.”

After Çelik’s statement, MHP’s Vice President for Legal and Electoral Affairs Feti Yıldız, one of the important names of the MHP, made a statement in favor of the continuation of the People’s Alliance.

Yıldız said, “The People’s Alliance will continue to be the side of the righteous, to ensure the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, and to be the guarantee of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The People’s Alliance is not just an electoral alliance, it is a national and moral stance in the face of hostile domestic and foreign attempts against Turkey and a historical unity to be maintained within this framework.”

Özel’s call to Bahçeli

CHP Chairman Özgür Özel made an appeal to MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Özel said, “There are obviously problems in the People’s Alliance. In order to solve the problems, a text contains a rupture, a loyalty, a commitment, a reproach, a hope and a threat. We are not busy with any of these. Because there is such an approach; let me make an invitation to Mr. Bahçeli. If he is not satisfied with his alliance, he can join our alliance. Our alliance is called the Turkey alliance. Therefore, there is no need to unite political parties or to offer an alliance to CHP and another political party.”

Sinan Ateş trial

The case of Sinan Ateş, the murdered former head of the Grey Wolves Ocakları, has a very important role in the tension between the AKP and the MHP.

In this context, the photo of the ring shared by MHP leader Bahçeli on his social media account before Erdoğan’s reception of Sinan Ateş’s wife Ayşe Ateş was interpreted as a reflection of the problems between the People’s Alliance. It was claimed that the message of the ring that reads “Allah is enough for me” was to Erdoğan and AKP.

MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın, on the other hand, told a website, “He wears the rings he loves on the days he cares about. I think it is a complete coincidence.”

Meanwhile, the MHP leadership has announced that they will be present at the hearing on July 1.

According to an MHP staff member, there is no discomfort in the MHP regarding the Ayşe Ateş meeting. “Sometimes there are comments in the public opinion that ‘MHP is obliged to AK Party’ or vice versa. Parties are not obliged to each other. There is harmony between the leaders. The unity will continue.”

AKP officials interviewed by DW Turkish do not interpret Bahçeli’s ring post as “ordinary” or “coincidental”. According to an official, Bahçeli is uncomfortable with President Erdoğan’s meeting with Ayşe Ateş, despite rumors to the contrary. According to the same AKP official, Bahçeli thinks that any comments made after this meeting will damage the People’s Alliance. “Our President could not remain indifferent to this voice. Also, if he had not made an appointment, it would have been said that Bahçeli prevented it. Time will tell whether there will be new steps in the Sinan Ateş murder case after this meeting. It is premature to talk about this at the moment.”

On the other hand, the Sinan Ateş case is closely followed within the AKP. While there are some who think that the process in this case may create a break in the People’s Alliance in the future, it is noted that there is an image and perception that “the MHP does not want the case to progress” and that this situation harms both the MHP and the AKP.

MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın made a written statement and evaluated Erdoğan’s meeting with Ayşe Ateş as follows: “The Marxist press, which targets the MHP without evidence, documents, proof and grounds, avoids questioning the murderers of thousands of our citizens, police officers and soldiers. No MHP official is mentioned in the indictment” and emphasized that there is no problem in the People’s Alliance.

However, former MHP Istanbul Provincial Executive Ufuk Köktürk, who is named in the indictment, is among the arrested defendants in the Sinan Ateş case and will appear before the judge on July 1.

What can happen next?

At a time when Ankara is experiencing one of the hottest meteorological days in history, it is unlikely that the political heat will subside anytime soon, but following the recent statements, there is talk that Erdoğan and Bahçeli may meet and the two leaders may discuss the problems face to face.

According to an AKP figure, Turkey needs a “softening” process in politics and the government needs to take steps in democracy and reforms in order to consolidate its steps in the economy. In this context, the expectation for action on the Gezi trial and Osman Kavala’s case in the short term is high among a certain segment of the AKP, which is also characterized as moderate. According to a member of this group, the most influential factor in the postponement of these steps is the MHP. In this context, the AKP could cooperate with the MHP, but the government should not allow the appearance of being “under the domination of the MHP”.

In the meantime, Bahçeli’s statement in which he targeted some AKP staff by calling them “dissatisfied” and said “an alliance with the CHP is possible” is also being discussed within the AKP.

The so-called “progressive, libertarian” or “liberal” wing of the AKP has become more vocal following the defeat in the March 31 elections. They criticized the cancellation of the elections in Van, the appointment of a trustee in Hakkari, and the lack of action in the cases of Osman Kavala and Gezi protesters. Most recently, at the AKP’s Kızılcahamam Camp, this wing made it clear that new steps were expected in terms of relations with the West and democratic discourse in order to consolidate the steps taken in the economy. The intra-party outbursts of these figures, who are active both in the party leadership and in the AKP parliamentary leadership, reached Bahçeli, who reportedly made this restrictive statement to the AKP and Erdoğan.

However, the President and his close working team do not envisage the “People’s Alliance” with Bahçeli being terminated at this stage. It is noted that it is not possible in the short term for Erdoğan to step back from the so-called “statist” policies supported by the MHP. However, it is also stated that despite all these, Erdoğan is not disturbed by these discussions within the party.

DW Turkce