Fight for nationalist votes gets bigger and nastier

Fight for nationalist votes gets bigger and nastier

As Turkey heads for a second election in six months, amid daily reports of soldiers killed in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and violence in southeastern towns, a race to lure nationalist votes that often includes personal insults is going ahead at full speed.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials ramped up the nationalist rhetoric in their speeches ahead of the June election, which saw a drop in the AKP’s vote share and a slight increase in the votes of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The AKP front saw that reminding Kurdish citizens of the right the fundamental rights they were given in the AKP era - such as a state television station broadcasting in Kurdish - or waving a Kurdish translation of the Quran in rallies, was not enough to stop them from voting for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). They have now given up trying and have focused their eyes on Turkish nationalist votes instead in the bid to win one-party rule after the upcoming election.

With MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s personal attacks on President Erdoğan, and the replies from Erdoğan and AKP officials who ran to his aid, personal issues and insults have quickly been included in the fight. 

This week’s incidents proved just how low they can get.

It started with a message on Twitter posted by Aydın Ünal, a former aide and speechwriter for Erdoğan and now an AKP lawmaker, who slammed Bahçeli for “insulting” Erdoğan and his family. The AKP deputy said Bahçeli “would be forced to lick the foam coming out of his mouth as he speaks.”

The MHP’s response was even harsher.

“It is our advice to the AK [White] palace,” the MHP’s official Twitter account stated on Aug. 17, referring to the presidential complex in Ankara by linking it to the AKP, or AK Party. “[The palace] should vaccinate all its dogs for rabies. Aydın Ünal, on the other hand, should be quarantined because vaccination would not help him.”

A written statement the next day by MHP deputy leader Semih Yalçın toughened the “dog” rhetoric even further.

“It is obvious that Tayyip Erdoğan is still running the AKP and that some lawmakers of this party, such as Aydın Ünal, have been selected from among his household servants,” the statement read. “Aydın Ünal, the so-called deputy, has dedicated his tongue to the tannering of politics to pay the price of the bone offered to him.”

As the war of words raged on, President Erdoğan yesterday took a jab directly at MHP head Bahçeli, who said last month “give us Bilal and take the government,” calling on the president to have his son Bilal Erdoğan put on trial for alleged corruption.

“If my son has any wrongdoing, the judiciary will address the issue,” Erdoğan said. “Who are you to bring my son into this? It’s only natural for someone who does not have a child to say that. Because he does not know what family is, what a child is, so he does not know what is right and what is the truth.”

Indeed, Bahçeli, who has often said he is “married to his cause,” has never been married. This was not the first time that Erdoğan has referred to that fact.

We are months away from the election, but political tensions are already running high. Fights between members of political parties, and even more deaths, will be no surprise if the sides continue to flare the tensions until the end.