Can the MHP be a 'strategy option?'

Can the MHP be a 'strategy option?'

Over the next few weeks, there might be a radical reformatting of Turkish politics. On the one hand, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pressing hard to achieve a miraculous wind in parliament and probably in the country to blow him to a higher, super president position by making a cosmetic or overall amendment in the constitution. 

The current picture of Turkish politics is appalling. Despite all its odds, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) still appears as the “sole hope” of the people, with no viable political alternative.

In the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), presumably the opposition but a de facto and effective political crutch of the AKP in most times of need, Devlet Bahçeli is waging a fight for survival. Bahçeli’s survival, for obvious reasons, is of existential importance for Erdoğan and his super president aspirations and, of course, the AKP. Yet, without some real change, the MHP appears destined to be left out of parliament in a new election as most political analysts agree that the party would most probably require a miracle not to stay below the ten percent national electoral threshold. 

Challenges to Bahçeli’s leadership might offer a way out for the MHP, but such a development would have devastating effects on the aspirations of Erdoğan. Bahçeli has always been at the beck and call of the president every time he needed a crutch. Could those challenging Bahçeli offer the same political help? On the contrary, if the MHP achieves a leadership change in a manner that might carry the party to center right and becomes a source of attraction, a viable alternative to AKP rule, it might not be a surprise to see some of those heavy cannons of the AKP lend support and help the MHP elevate itself to a position capable of playing a fundamental role in the shapeup of post-AKP Turkey.

Perhaps that is just a wishful thinking and it might be in the genes of the MHP to support the AKP in any way possible and Erdoğan, while pretending it is an opposition party. Perhaps even if leadership change might be achieved, nothing concrete would change in the MHP. If the court-ordered party convention could be held and open the way for a second convention within weeks where the MHP would elect its leader, the current political stalemate in the country, or the “condemned to AKP” sense in the country might be terminated.

In any case, change should come from the right. All through its political multi-party democratic history, the left has never passed over 42 percent while most of the time the share of center-right and far right has hovered around 65 percent. Particularly in recent times, the left has been at around 32-35 percent, inclusive of the Kurdish vote. Thus, the change should come from within right. If there is a vacuum in the center right and all existing parties of center right are far more still than dead, there might be hope for the MHP to move to right. That is indeed what lies deep in the plans of the MHP’s opposition demanding power within the party.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has just left behind a disgusting gaffe by its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in regards to respecting women, but no doubt the capability of committing even worse political mistakes is there. The main opposition party, despite leadership change and overhaul of its top brass so many times over the past few years, could not remove the grave dust and dirt covering it so heavily and appears doomed to stay in the 20-25 percent margin in all elections.

The junior opposition, or the Kurdish party known as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has totally aligned with separatist terrorists, as it could not even condemn terrorism. Unfortunately in an election anytime soon, it appears doomed to be buried in the ballot box by falling below the 10 percent national electoral threshold.

Despite all its problems, polarization within the party between President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Bülent Arınç, former President Abdullah Gül and other heavy weights, the AKP stands as the sole party that could become if not stronger as strong as it is now from a new election.

Before the June vote, many people in the country were commenting that for the sake of hurting the strength of the AKP in power – that is, even if it could not be removed from power – voting for the HDP might be good.

That was a strategy vote and indeed it carried the HDP to an unimaginable 13.1 percent vote share. Those people long abandoned the HDP because of the failure of the party to become a “Turkey party;” it aligned so much with terrorists that it could not even condemn terrorism. Could the “rejuvenated” MHP be the new address of a “strategy vote” and become a serious challenge to the AKP?

Well, as the town started talking about snap polls in the fall should Erdoğan’s presidential aspirations fail in the current attempt as well, perhaps it is wiser to be prepared for all eventualities.