MHP on the home stretch

MHP on the home stretch

The Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) recent Ankara rally was considerably weaker than the one it staged before the June 7 election. 

I don’t know whether security concerns had any effect on the weak turnout, but while I was wandering around the sparse crowd I saw traces of anger toward MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, making the picture clearer. 

Bahçeli seemed to be aware of this. He was on the defensive, trying to prove with quotations from President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Davutoğlu and Bülent Arınç that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was responsible for the failure to form a coalition government after June 7. He also claimed that the result was obvious even during negotiation traffic between the AKP and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). He slammed the CHP for having “no principles” and being “obedient” to the AKP.

A voice from the crowd    

Bahçeli also addressed claims that the MHP votes are falling, describing them as a “perception operation” and saying those claiming this will lose face on Nov. 1, polling day. 

Indeed, the MHP head not only defended himself; as usual he criticized the AKP harshly and did not neglect the other parties. He repeatedly referred to Davutoğlu’s recent accusation that ISIL was “ungrateful,” stressing that this was a terrorist organization that took Turkish diplomats hostage and that bombed the Süleyman Shah Tomb. 

Bahçeli also directed harsh barbs toward Davutoğlu on the subject of the Oct. 10 suicide bombing in Ankara.

“Hey ‘Serok’ Ahmet! Doesn’t your conscience ever burn you? Don’t you fear God? Our people are dying and you are saying the AKP’s votes have increased. The PKK, ISIL and the DHKP-C stage massacres and the AKP gets more votes. What kind of a mentality is this?” he said, to great applause from the crowd. His use of “Serok,” a Kurdish term for “leader,” was obviously ironic. 

So Bahçeli’s criticisms of the AKP were well received. But the general spirit of the MHP’s grassroots was summed up very well by one person at the rally: “I understand why we didn’t join just any government. But it would have been good if we had said ‘yes’ to a CHP minority government on condition of an early election.

If we had gone to an election with such a government then at least the AKP would not have been able to exploit the state, the governors and institutions as much as it does now. Instead, today the MHP is not only competing against the AKP, it is also competing against the state.” 

Double-way risk 

I have written before that the MHP has two broad voter bases: One part of its base has a conservative lifestyle; the other part has a secular lifestyle. These two bases have reacted differently to the situation since June 7. From this aspect, the MHP will have a serious problem on Nov. 1. 

While the first group is in favor of a coalition with the AKP, the second group largely represented in Turkey’s coastal regions and in large cities favors a government partnership with the CHP to topple the AKP.  Especially in the second group there is a sympathetic view toward the CHP. 

The MHP must know that it faces a threat from the CHP. It needs to focus on this and make use of its last six days of campaigning accordingly; otherwise it is still possible that it may have an unpleasant surprise on Nov. 1. 

Nevertheless, there is no question of the party dropping below the 10 percent election threshold, as is whispered by some in the AKP. 

It looks likely that the MHP will have to join a coalition after Nov. 1, but the answer of whether this will be with the AKP or the CHP rests on the vote percentage it receives.