The new Turkey: Is Erdoğan chained to the nationalist MHP?
As the dust started to settle after the key June 24 elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with his main political ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, on June 27. They have been in alliance throughout the constitutional referendum in 2017 and last weekend’s presidential and parliamentary polls. It had not been announced earlier, but outgoing Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also joined their meeting.
Their 45-minute meeting had two main aims. First, it was a courtesy visit. The poll results showed that without the support of the MHP, Erdoğan could not be elected in the first round. Moreover, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) secured the parliamentary majority for drafting and vetoing laws not by itself, but only through its alliance with the MHP, the People's Alliance. Secondly, the two leaders discussed the possibility of the continuation of their alliance in the Turkish Parliament in Yıldırım’s presence.
The first test of that possibility could be the election of the new parliament speaker, Yıldırım being one of AK Parti’s possible candidates.
Another form of cooperation could be forming an informal coalition by offering cabinet positions to MHP members or names suggested by the MHP. Bahçeli had rejected to get into such a bargaining and said no MPs of the MHP, including himself, would be in the cabinet. Moreover, he said after the elections that the MHP would assume a kind of parliamentary control mission over the government. Perhaps encouraged by that remark, one of his deputies, Sefer Aycan, said that from now on the AK Parti government would have to receive the MHP’s approvals. Bahçeli dismissed Aycan from his position a few hours before his meeting with Erdoğan, in a gesture move.
Given that the AK Parti does not have a parliamentary majority alone, some domestic and foreign observers have been thinking — by how Aycan voiced his view and got punished by the party leader — if Erdoğan is chained to Bahçeli’s MHP in all elections within parliament?
It may be a valid question on paper, but in practice the outlook may be different. The AK Parti will have 295 seats in parliament. If the speaker of the parliament is subtracted from that number, for every voting the AK Parti government will need at least six more votes to reach 300 votes, half of the seats in parliament.
But Erdoğan is not desperate for those six votes. Firstly, there is an alternative in parliament: The İYİ (Good) Party. Secondly, if the AK Parti opens its doors to such a move, there might be more than six deputies from other parties who would want to make use of the opportunity to join the government party to help it have the parliamentary majority without being obliged to the approval of another one, be it MHP or İYİ. Yes, there is the loyalty factor in Erdoğan’s relations with Bahçeli, but it is a political relationship after all and there are limits. Therefore, it could be possible that the MHP will provide certain suggestions to the AK Parti’s legislative moves in parliament, but not possible to assume it will have an open-ended power to restrict or stop them.