Operation Türkeş: The start of a battle

Operation Türkeş: The start of a battle

Sociologists and psychiatrists might eventually come up with an answer, but no seismologist would succeed in measuring the scale of the massive quake in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). How could anyone think of the possibility of someone carrying the surname of the founding father of the “nationalist struggle” abandoning the struggle and aligning with – as the MHP has been claiming – alleged “thieves” and “partners in the process of the dissolution of the Turkish state?”

It was obviously a shock for even non-MHP people when Tuğrul Türkeş, the senior son of legendary nationalist “Başbuğ” (or chief commander) Alparslan Türkeş, accepted an offer from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to participate in the election government, despite the MHP’s declared position that it would stay out of any such deal. Would it be that much of a surprise if the surname of the senior MHP executive was not Türkeş but something else? Probably not, but the two other MHP deputies offered seats in the “extraordinary election government” opted out. Also, all five of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies offered ministerial positions by Davutoğlu under relevant clauses in the constitution acted along with their party decision and said no… even Deniz Baykal, who was claimed to have killed the prospects of an opposition coalition by meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and becoming a candidate for parliament speakership, turned down the offer. Only the three deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) accepted the proposal offered to them by Davutoğlu. The pro-Kurdish party was receptive to such a deal anyhow…

What will happen now to Türkeş? The MHP has publicly asked him to quit the party. Anyhow, the MHP has started the process of expelling him. Coupled with the expulsion of Sinan Oğan – a respected academic-politician from Kilis, on the border with Syria – the next two months might witness a character assassination campaign from the president and his gang of merry men in the media, and of course the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The MHP, accused by everyone of being responsible for the failure to form a coalition because of its acute opposition to everything, has had a serious perceptional problem in society anyhow. Even though it might now capture the possibility of telling the conservative-religious electoral grassroots that it shares with the AKP that the AKP has made a coalition government with the political extension of the separatist gang, the MHP might find itself sitting in the not so much appreciated “problem maker” seat. Furthermore, with the Türkeş surname aligned with the AKP and perhaps offered a place in the upcoming election from the AKP, it might become difficult for the MHP to avoid “2002 syndrome.”

Yet, an increase in terrorism-related violence, Türkeş probably becoming a candidate from the AKP and the HDP in government might create the psychological base to carry the MHP to a repeat 1999 election victory. Will it be a repeat of  the 2002 below ten percent threshold tragedy for the MHP and will the nationalists will be left out of parliament for a second time, or will it be a repeat of 1999, when the MHP scored its biggest ever election victory with 18 percent of the vote? The next two months before the election will be rather existentially important for the MHP.

Similarly, if the HDP has left the psychological barrier in the June 7 vote behind, the party might even push its electoral base further up by seven percentage points, as many sociologists and pollsters have claimed it might, and not have any threshold problem in the Nov. 1 vote. Can the HDP maintain or even advance its June 7 electoral share? Many socialists, liberals and social democrats who voted for the HDP in June so as to push the AKP out of government might return to their original parties, while Kurds who voted for some other parties fearing their party will not make it to parliament might now vote for the HDP. Thus, on voting day it is very likely the HDP will still have around 12-13 percent of the vote.

With four parties in parliament, on the other hand, it will be impossible for the AKP and its absolute sultan at the extravagant palace to come to power alone, forget getting the majority to change the constitution and make the de facto “all powerful Erdoğan” de juro super president. Thus, in the next two months while the AKP will try to attack and contain the HDP as much as possible, its real target will most likely be to get as many votes as possible from the nationalists and if possible push the MHP below the threshold.

The “Operation Türkeş” that appears to have been designed at the palace and executed by Davutoğlu might be just the tip of the iceberg, or the beginning of an all-out war between the AKP and the MHP, which all along served as the AKP’s trustworthy political crutch. In this battle, Tuğrul Türkeş accepted becoming a stooge for Erdoğan. It is likely that, frustrated with MHP head Devlet Bahçeli and his timid leadership, there will be some serious initial problems in the MHP. Yet, the MHP is not just a party, more than that it is a “struggle” capable enough to overcome such problems speedily.

This will be an interesting election period…