Expulsions roil MHP as ‘base divided’ ahead of Turkey’s constitutional referendum

Expulsions roil MHP as ‘base divided’ ahead of Turkey’s constitutional referendum

Expulsions roil MHP as ‘base divided’ ahead of Turkey’s constitutional referendum Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chair Semih Yalçın has admitted that the party’s base includes people who plan to vote “no” in the upcoming constitutional referendum, as the MHP referred four dissident members to its disciplinary board.

“‘No’ votes could come from MHP base in a limited number in the constitutional change referendum, from those who are affected by ‘chronic opposition,’” Yalçın told daily Sabah on Feb. 13, while claiming that a majority of the MHP base will vote “yes” in the public vote on whether to shift the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency.

“We haven’t conducted any research as a party. But polls carried out up to now show that MHP voters are inclined to vote ‘yes.’ We think we will be able to persuade undecided voters at rallies, meetings and with our campaign efforts,” he added. 

Dissident members of the MHP previously announced that they had formed a group to campaign to vote “no” in the upcoming referendum. 

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.

Asked about the effect of the dissident campaign, Yalçın said “he doesn’t care much.”

“The fact that the chronic opposition is following the same line as terrorist organizations is evidence of how ill-intentioned they are. This shows that our people won’t rely on them. The MHP base and our people won’t forgive or forget betrayal. The chronic opposition is saying ‘no’ because the MHP is saying ‘yes,’ not because it believes in something or has a consistent opinion. Their disease is obvious. They do the opposite of whatever the MHP says. They don’t have any effect on the MHP base. Don’t take their empty talk seriously,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the MHP has referred four prominent dissidents to its disciplinary board in order for them to be expelled from the party. Yusuf Halaçoğlu, İsmail Ok, Oğan and Nuri Okutan were referred to the Central Disciplinary Board for “acting against party discipline and hierarchy.” They are also accused of violating the party’s bylaws.

All four deputies supported the MHP dissidents’ referendum campaign. 

According to media reports, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli ordered the party members to take action against naysayers in the party. 

“There is a proper way of saying ‘no.’ The Central Disciplinary Board should take action and start the process for the expulsion of these lawmakers who acted against party discipline,” Bahçeli reportedly said in a party meeting in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, daily Sözcü reported on Feb. 13.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 to decide whether to change the government system into an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for the president or to protect the current parliamentary system.

The “yes” vote is endorsed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MHP.