What lies beneath the MHP’s presidential strategy

What lies beneath the MHP’s presidential strategy

The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, voiced the most crucial sentence at the end of a speech that he delivered on the party’s parliamentary group meeting on Oct. 18.

“I truly believe that a moderate and appropriate outcome can be reached if our principles and sensitivities are taken into consideration.”

It all sounds rather vague. He does not say that “we will cast a ‘yes’ vote.” He does not say they will cast a “no” vote either. It is as if he lives in the middle. Actually, we all understand what he is saying. While it looks like ciphered, the message is open, the position is clear. 

In other words, he is saying that when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) brings the proposal for a presidential system to parliament, the MHP will contribute to an appropriate and moderate outcome. This is a conditional commitment of support. He will see if the MHP’s principles and sensitivities are respected or not.

What I gather is that first, the MHP has a concrete presidential model in mind. Although he repeats that he is in favor of revising the parliamentary system, he is open to giving a green light to an acceptable presidential system. And second, he talked about it in depth with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in their most recent meeting. He told him what kind of model he might give a green light to and that he is expecting this to be taken into consideration.

Most people are asking whether we are headed for a referendum, when it will take place, etc. It seems no one is curious anymore about what kind of model will be brought to the referendum. Yet what we need to discuss is the model itself.

The MHP is trying to implement a practice it cannot prevent within a constitutional framework. Rather than accepting a de facto presidential system whose borders are not even known, it is pursuing a policy that will name the system and draw the correct lines.

Can’t the Republican People’s Party (CHP) endorse a similar line?

Can’t it play a role in shaping a model just like the MHP does rather than being excluded in a process that it cannot stop?

Suppose you are against the presidential system but can’t prevent it from happening. Shouldn’t you accept that you will have to live with that and contribute to the process?

What is logical is to reflect your truth before categorically saying it is wrong.

Bahçeli’s strategy

The general comment about Bahçeli’s words is this: “He is pursuing a policy based on ‘yes’ to a referendum and ‘no’ to a presidential system.”

I don’t agree with that because it is not realistic to say “yes” and “no” at the same time. How could you explain it to your constituency if you cast a “yes” vote in parliament to the AKP’s proposal on a presidential system even if you disagree? If you tell people that you are saying “yes” because it is in line with your principles and sensitivities, then you will have an additional explanation to make.

Next, you will have to explain why you are leading a “no” campaign during the referendum. The two cannot coexist. Either your “no” or your “yes” will look dishonest. It will be perceived as inconsistency; people will assume there are calculations involved. Voters will be confused with this outlook of indecisiveness or cheap politics. I don’t think Bahçeli can afford this. Even saying “yesterday I was in favor of the parliamentary system, but I have changed my mind; in the present circumstances, I am for the presidential system” would sound more clean and be less costly.

Don’t look at the rhetoric that favors the parliamentary system and the referendum at the same time. They are just taking the middle course; they will then move toward a single direction.