AKP, MHP signal joint campaign for referendum
VALETTA / ANKARA
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have signaled a joint campaign in the upcoming referendum on whether to shift Turkey to an executive presidential system.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said the AKP and the MHP could take part in joint activities for the upcoming referendum, while the MHP has also hinted at holding joint campaigning activities.
“We brought the constitutional amendments to parliament together as the AKP and the MHP. That’s why we have a unity of purpose,” Yıldırım told reporters at a press conference with his Maltese counterpart Joseph Muscat in Valetta on Feb. 17, noting that both the MHP and the AKP will be campaigning for a “Yes” votes in the referendum.
“It’s very natural that our discourses are similar. We could hold some joint rallies if necessary,” he added.
Yıldırım’s remarks came one day after the MHP, the only opposition party in parliament that supported the AKP-led amendments, issued a circular letter submitted to MHP organizations about the April 16 constitutional referendum.
“The MHP will prepare its April 16 referendum with its own capabilities. However, if deemed necessary collaboration with political parties with which we have the same preferences in the referendum could be conducted within the limits of certain boundaries and thresholds,” the letter stated.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli had previously denied the possibility of joint campaigning several times before.
“The MHP will carry out its campaign using its own means, with its own style and on its own grounds. Other parties could also vote yes, that is their right. If there is unity in the aim, it would be useful to use concepts in a similar fashion to prevent contradictions,” Bahçeli said on Feb. 9, suggesting a “coordinated” rather than “joint” campaign.
The Feb. 16 notice to MHP party organizations also underlined that its own party-based campaigning will not be conjoined with other parties.
“Apart from obligatory cases, our campaign work will not be in one and the same as other parties. The MHP will share its ‘yes’ will with the nation alone, within its own style, principles, and political experience,” the notice wrote.
Emphasis on ‘unity in discourse’ amid intra-party debate
In the circular, the MHP also referred to intra-party opposition, amid questions over grassroots opposition to the “Yes” campaign and the resignation or dismissal of many party members.
“We will not make any connection with or attend any meetings of individuals who are not related to our party, who have been with us for a while but expelled from the party on the grounds of disciplinary contradictions, or who have taken a stance against our attitude,” the statement noted.
“Throughout the referendum process, the illegitimate use of our party flags, badges, visual material and placards against our decision will not be tolerated or allowed,” it said, stressing that the MHP administration will pay “extra attention” to any opposition to the “Yes” campaign within the party.
‘No joint rallies with AKP’
MHP Secretary-General Ismet Büyükataman, meanwhile, said his party would not hold a joint rally with the AKP.
“There will not be any joint activities like holding joint rallies or hall meetings just because the AKP or other parties are also saying ‘yes.’ However, if there will be any initiative by other parties that are saying ‘yes’ to join our activities at a local level, they will not be rejected,” Büyükataman told daily Hürriyet on Feb. 17.
Dissidents to campaign against charter
Meanwhile, a platform established to run the “No” campaign for MHP dissidents under the title “Turkish Nationalists Say ‘No’” is set to hold a rally in Ankara on Feb. 18.
The meeting will be attended by names including Meral Akşener, Sinan Oğan, Koray Aydın, Ümit Özdağ and Yusuf Halaçoğlu, who have all been expelled by the MHP administration.