Five dissident MHP lawmakers oppose Bahçeli’s support for referendum

Five dissident MHP lawmakers oppose Bahçeli’s support for referendum

Five dissident MHP lawmakers oppose Bahçeli’s support for referendum Five lawmakers from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have openly objected to party leader Devlet Bahçeli’s support for a public vote on a government-led constitutional amendment including a shift to a presidential system, vowing to vote against it at parliament. 

MHP lawmakers Ümit Özdağ, Nuri Okutan, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, Seyfettin Yılmaz and İsmail Ok said they would vote against the constitutional amendment if it is submitted to a parliamentary vote, rebelling against Bahçeli’s previous comments hinting that the MHP would support the constitutional draft in parliament in order to take the changes to a referendum. 

The 40-seat MHP’s support is key for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) aim to bring a constitutional amendment to a public vote, as the AKP is 14 seats short of the required majority.
Özdağ was recently among the dissident MHP leadership candidates aiming to unseat Bahçeli, who has been head of the MHP since 1997. 

“We will express our support for the parliamentary system by voting against the Justice and Development Party’s proposal for a presidential system if it is submitted to parliament’s vote. We will struggle to make sure that the general vote for the referendum stays under 330 votes,” the MHP deputies said in a written statement on Oct. 24.

The MHP representatives criticized Bahçeli’s previous indication that the party would support the parliamentary vote to bring the decision on the constitutional amendment to the public while campaigning against the change.

“We think the stance on voting ‘yes’ in parliament but ‘no’ in a referendum is not the right move. We think it is mocking the public’s intelligence,” they said.

The also suggested that extending discussion on a presidential system would cause greater political tension in the public, amid ongoing turmoil in the aftermath of the failed July 15 military coup attempt. Such a referendum would be harmful to Turkey and lead to its further division. 

“As five MHP representatives, we support the continuity of the parliamentary regime. We, as Mr. Bahçeli himself has expressed many times in recent years, think the presidential system will divide Turkey by [leading to demands for regional] autonomy and a federal system,” the MPs added.