Dissidents from opposition MHP form group to say ‘no’ in Turkey’s referendum

Dissidents from opposition MHP form group to say ‘no’ in Turkey’s referendum

Dissidents from opposition MHP form group to say ‘no’ in Turkey’s referendum Dissident members of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have announced that they have formed a group to campaign to vote “no” in the upcoming referendum on shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system. 

The committee will be led by Meral Akşener, Sinan Oğan, Koray Aydın and Ümit Özdağ, who all tried to run for the MHP leadership last year but saw their attempt stymied by their party and the court system. 

The committee held its first meeting in Ankara on Jan. 31 with the participation of MHP Kayseri deputy Yusuf Halaçoğlu, as well as former MHP deputies and former heads of the Idealist Hearths (Ülkü Ocakları) groups, which have close links to the MHP. 

The committee, which is planning to hold its second meeting next week, also plans to contact the Islamic-based Saadet (Felicity) Party and the ultranationalist Great Union Party (BBP). The BBP announced on Feb. 1 that it had not been in contact with any other party regarding the referendum. 

Speaking after the Jan. 31 meeting, Halaçoğlu said the committee shared its thoughts on how to carry out the campaign process, stressing that they would not carry out the “no” campaign by targeting any particular party or person. 

“The charter changes introduce a one-man regime, which cannot even exist in a sultanate. We are going to invite everyone who supports the separation of powers and the democratic state of law against one-man rule,” Halaçoğlu told daily Hürriyet, adding that they will “meet with everyone who says no.”

“The changes will gather executive, legislative and judicial powers in a single hand,” he said. 

Halaçoğlu also announced that they will hold a meeting on Feb. 18 to officially start their “No” campaign. 

Aydın, meanwhile, claimed that “90 percent” of the MHP’s voter base is against the presidential system. 

“We will get at least 90 percent saying ‘no.’ We are uniting as a whole nationalist family. This is a significant decision that Turkey will make regarding its future,” Aydın told daily Sözcü. 

Another dissident member, Ümit Özdağ, said they will campaign in all 81 provinces. 

“What’s more, nationalists who don’t even vote for the MHP will vote ‘no,’” Özdağ told Sözcü. 

For his part, Oğan vowed that they would never allow the MHP to be “destroyed” by current leader Devlet Bahçeli, who has headed the party since July 1997 and who supports the constitutional changes. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) last month passed a draft from parliament with the help of the MHP to take the shift to a referendum, likely on April 9 or April 16.