Where is MHP candidate Akşener running?
When I talked with Meral Akşener, one of the candidates challenging the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leadership, she was coming back from the southern province of Gaziantep.
“It is as if I am on an electoral campaign,” she said with confidence and joy, adding she has already traveled to 36 destinations.
“Who is coming to your meetings?” I asked. “It is not only MHP supporters, people from different walks of life are coming,” she said.
She drew a profile: Women, resentful MHP supporters, nationalist-conservative circles.
“They look at me as an alternative to the government. I recall when [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan went to a campaign rally in 2001. There was a mood of resentment, anger. I don’t see that. People are looking for an alternative,” she said.
Akşener believes there is a resentful segment within the Justice and Development Party (AKP) who could not digest the way Ahmet Davutoğlu was sent away from the Prime Ministry. Within the Republican People’s Party (CHP) there is a center-right segment which used to vote for the center-right parties of the past, especially in the Aegean and Thrace regions, who have not found what they hoped for in the CHP, she said. “They believe I provide an alternative,” she added.
She is concerned about the language being used currently. “I am using a respectful language in my criticism. My speeches are very animated,” she said.
Since she has put forward her candidacy, Akşener has been one of the most debated names in the media. She has also been insulted, the subject of a smear campaign. I asked her whether she saw any reflection of that in the street. “Indeed, it has triggered the sentiment of protection among the people,” she said.
There are two dates for the party congress. One is June 19; that has been declared by the panel appointed by the court. The other one is 10 July, determined by the party’s headquarters.
I asked Akşener which one she would go to. “The one on June 19 is the legal one and the compulsory one,” she said adding that after an amendment is made in the party’s charter a new date for the party congress will be fixed. Can this date be July 10? “It is possible,” she said, adding that she could not decide on that on her own.
Bahçeli victim of mistakes committed after June 7 elections
Then I asked the fundamental question: Where was Akşener running? What would she do if she was not elected head of the party? Would she form another party? “I have never gone to a place with several horses. I have always ridden one horse. I will work to win. I have no other agenda.”
There is a fierce struggle within the MHP. The party administration did not manage the process of the congress well. The mistakes made by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli began the questioning of his leadership, while they work in favor of Akşener in the streets. Yet Bahçeli has contributed a lot to Turkish politics. He pulled back young members of the MHP out from the streets. If he is currently passing through a difficult period, the mistakes he committed after the June 7, 2015, elections have a big role to play in it. Former late President Süleyman Demirel used to say: “There is a cure to everything in politics, except one thing; That’s failure.”