Ruling party, nationalist opposition eye closer ties

Ruling party, nationalist opposition eye closer ties

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ruling party, nationalist opposition eye closer ties

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli supports Interior Minister Şahin on his Uludere remarks. AA photo

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) appear to be enjoying rapprochement as the two converge on their approaches to the Kurdish issue and deliberations on a new constitution.

Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli lashed out at critics of last year’s botched air raid in southeastern Uludere, backing controversial suggestions by Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin that there were links between the slain smugglers and Kurdish militants.

The two sides’ common stance on the politically explosive issue comes at a time when the AKP and the MHP have already displayed similar attitudes on contentious topics at Parliament’s constitution-making commission, where the ruling party will need an ally to pass the new charter if efforts for an all-party consensus fail.

Given the fact that the AKP and MHP adopted similar lines in writing constitutional articles on equality, human dignity and fundamental rights, political observers believe this trend is likely to continue in future discussions on the charter.

In a recent statement, Erdoğan said he would not push for an all-party consensus if he faced impositions during the constitution-making process. Instead, he announced that he would make an alliance with one of the parties.

Echoing the much-criticized remarks of Şahin, Erdoğan suggested yesterday that the 34 smugglers killed mistakenly at the Iraqi border on Dec. 28, 2011, could have been linked to or aided by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He also questioned how they had managed to move safely in an area where militants plant handmade explosives. “It’s remarkable that none of those smugglers stepped on a bomb. Who has a map [of the explosives]?,” Erdoğan said at his party’s parliamentary group meeting ahead of visits to Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır on the weekend.

The interior minister had suggested last week that the smugglers were “extras” in a ploy “orchestrated entirely” by the PKK and that the goods they were bringing from northern Iraq had been supplied by the militants. His allegations triggered a harsh response by AKP deputy chair Hüseyin Çelik, an ethnic Kurd, and reportedly irked other Kurdish members of the party.

Bahçeli supports Şahin

But Şahin also received support from Bahçeli, who hailed the minister’s attitude as “comforting and appreciated” in the struggle against the PKK. “Even though his manners are sometimes wrong, the interior minister is carrying out his duty in good faith. Setting aside the separatist terrorists and grappling with the minister instead is playing into the hands of the PKK,” he said.

In further remarks yesterday, Erdoğan insisted that the unrelenting debate over the botched strike was part of an “orchestrated campaign” to tarnish the government, which, he said, is being backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as well as the Turkish media and foreign media linked to “Jewish lobbies.”