MHP to support Erdoğan in 2019 presidential election, calls on AKP for alliance

MHP to support Erdoğan in 2019 presidential election, calls on AKP for alliance

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
MHP to support Erdoğan in 2019 presidential election, calls on AKP for alliance

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli has announced his party’s decision to support President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s bid for reelection in presidential elections due for November 2019.

“The MHP will not present a candidate for the presidential elections in 2019. Its chairman will not run for the presidency. It will support Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the presidency in line with our party’s loyalty to the unity and togetherness of Turkey,” Bahçeli told Ankara bureau chiefs at a press conference on Jan 8.

He also called for legal amendments to be made in order to allow political parties to form pre-election alliances.

Turkey is scheduled to hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2019, which will also mark the start of a new era as it will see the executive presidency model be fully implemented. The new system abolished the position of the prime minister and hands all executive powers to the president.

Bahçeli’s MHP has been in close cooperation with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) since the July 2016 military coup. Through its votes at parliament the MHP played a vital role in Erdoğan’s plans to shift Turkey’s political system from the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency.

“The parties that moved together in amending the constitution should act along the same line,” Bahçeli said, vowing that his MHP will remain “loyal to the spirit of unity created in the aftermath of the coup attempt.”

Pre-election alliance

The MHP’s direct support to Erdoğan, even though the AKP has not yet formally announced him as its candidate for the presidential polls, is part of a larger political plan amid recent opinion polls suggesting that the MHP would struggle to overcome the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament.

Bahçeli called on Erdoğan and his AKP to “take steps” on lowering the 10 percent election threshold and ease restrictions on political parties forming pre-election alliances.

He said his proposal aimed to “normalize and stabilize” the political environment in Turkey.

‘A people’s alliance’

The MHP leader repeated his party’s intention to continue its cooperation with the AKP for the upcoming parliamentary elections and announced his wish for a pre-election alliance between the two. However, a pre-election alliance would necessitate legislative changes because current law prohibits existing political parties from formally entering elections together.

“What is in our mind is forming a ‘people’s alliance’ [with the AKP],” Bahçeli said, describing this as a “C alliance,” with “C” standing for “Cumhur,” meaning “the people” or “the public” in Turkish. According to Bahçeli’s plan, the AKP and the MHP will be represented at the ballot box under the title of the “C Alliance” but both parties’ symbols will also be on it.

“Anyone who wants to vote for this alliance will put their stamp first on the symbol of this party and then on the C alliance. In this way, each component of the alliance will know how many votes it has received,” he said.

Bahçeli ruled out implementing this alliance system in the local elections to be held in March 2019, also stressing that this proposal should not be seen as part of “negotiations” with Erdoğan on the MHP’s participation in a government formed by the president if elected.

The same pre-election alliance can also be used by other parties, Bahçeli said, referring to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the İYİ (Good) Party as proponents of the “No” vote ahead of the April 2017 referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system.

“If all these parties come together, it should be legalized and documented,” he added.

Meeting with Erdoğan

Bahçeli also stated that he had not discussed this “alliance plan” with Erdoğan or the AKP.

“Obviously, it would not be a decent move for the MHP, which is the fourth biggest group in parliament to go asking to form an alliance with the ruling party. But we hope to hold a meeting with the president in the coming days,” he said.

Gül shouldn’t run for elections

On recent speculation that former President Abdullah Gül could opt to run for the presidency in 2019 amid an ongoing row between himself and Erdoğan, Bahçeli said Gül’s moves are “unexplainable.”

“Abdullah Gül’s attempt to run in the presidential elections is not something explainable. It would be better if he avoided these calls and did not rise to the bait,” he added.