Turkish politics to get more active this month
March will mark important developments that could shape the future of Turkish politics. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main political ally under the People’s Alliance, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), both will hold their big conventions this month on March 24 and March 18, respectively.
This upcoming convention will be particularly important for the AKP as President and AKP Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is believed to undertake some changes within the party brass and cabinet. A limited reshuffle in the cabinet has long been on Erdoğan’s agenda, and it seems he will take this step in the aftermath of the convention. At the same time, he will also change some figures at the party’s executive branches. Appointing a new figure as the head of the AKP provincial management in Istanbul is obviously a sign that more changes can be observed during the upcoming convention.
Having already unveiled the much-anticipated Human Rights Action Plan in the first days of March, Erdoğan will announce a set of economic reforms next week. In the meantime, senior AKP officials continue to draft the Election Law and the Law on Political Parties.
President Erdoğan’s meetings with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli twice in the last 10 days are being interpreted that the works concerning the legal amendments that include reducing the election threshold and introducing new criteria for the parties to participate in the elections are coming to an end. Many pundits argue that the bills will be submitted to the parliament in the next month after the conventions of both the MHP and the AKP.
Erdoğan and Bahçeli probably have discussed how to coordinate their policies concerning the fate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as the latter continues to insist that the party should be shut down due to its links with the PKK terror organization. The AKP sees no interest in banning the HDP entirely, but pressure on the individual MPs will likely maintain as dozens of summary proceedings on HDP lawmakers are pending at the office of the parliament speaker.
March is important for the oppositional Nation Alliance, as well. Muharrem İnce, who resigned from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), will announce his new party in the coming weeks. He has already lured three lawmakers from the main opposition party as he continues his criticisms against his former party.
Likewise, Ümit Özdağ, a long-term dissident of İYİ (Good) Party Chair Meral Akşener, announced that he would form a new political entity as he resigned from the party after voicing strong accusations against Akşener’s leadership. Both İnce and Özdağ received widespread media attention in the past weeks, but their potential impact in changing the current political balance is believed to be limited.
CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu claimed in a recent interview that the establishment of new parties was a part of what he called political engineering that aims to weaken the Nation Alliance. He implied that this plot has been engineered by the ruling alliance.
A similar in-house debate is observed at the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) after President Erdoğan paid a visit to the party’s one of the most credible members, Oğuzhan Asiltürk, in January. Asiltürk, a long-term leading conservative politician, has become much more influential in his opposition to Felicity Party Chairman Temel Karamollaoğlu, who stands firm as the important component of the Nation Alliance.
That shows the member of the oppositional alliance has two major objectives: to keep the unity and integrity of the alliance and to accomplish their work of outlining what they concretely mean by returning to the strengthened parliamentary system. At a moment when the government and the MHP are leading the agenda with their proposal of a new constitution, the opposition alliance is lagging far behind.
The actions to be taken by the two opposing alliances in March will therefore be very important in terms of setting the grounds for future political debates in the country.