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MHP and AKP: Why Did They Split?

MHP and AKP: Why Did They Split?

On the very day that Erdoğan was to reveal the facts about the Khashoggi murder during AKP’s group meeting, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli stole the spotlight and announced there was no need for a Republican Alliance for the local elections. Erdoğan, in his reply, said “everyone goes their separate ways, then”.

At first what we understood from these reciprocal statements is that; AKP and MHP will not be in an alliance for the upcoming local elections, but they will continue to work together in the parliament.

As much as this seems to be the expectation, it does not really sound realistic. As their latest move in the parliament, MHP supported the opposition’s bill to reconsider retirement conditions against AKP’s wishes. Furthermore, MHP sources leaked to CNNTURK that MHP was considering the ex-AKP Mayor of Ankara Melih Gökçek as their candidate for the upcoming local elections. Long story short: the battle is on.

Where does the rift stem from? There are pragmatic reasons that we can all understand. Bahceli insisted for a general amnesty -a proposition Erdoğan resisted. MHP MP Erhan Usta’s statement to Sözcü newspaper is explains the matter more thoroughly.

As Turkey began to implement the new Presidential system, some ministries were abolished, one of which happened to be the Ministry of Development, which oversaw the economic policies of the government. Erhan Usta have been complaining about the bureaucrats who have been dysfunctional following the abolishment of the ministry.  Erhan Usta mentioned that there have been 115 bureaucrats who have been sent to other posts, and he claims those personnel who were well trained and happened to be experts in their fields were now resting idle.

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The purge of FETO members from the state offices following the coup attempt led way for the personnel who are closer to MHP to take hold of these positions. Even the latest decision taken by the State Court about the national oath, has been perceived as a proof of that.

As a leader, Tayyip Erdoğan does not like to share power. He does not believe in checks and balances, he does not believe in the distribution of responsibilities. He is good with his team mates as long as he is the captain and tells everyone what to do. Once members take initiatives, he does not have tolerance for them – as we have seen in the case of Gulenist organization-

So, another purge within bureaucracy will not be a surprise in the coming days.

On the other hand, one big rift between the two parties seem to be ideological. Not that MHP is a big fan of liberal democracy, but MHP still believes in the old Republic and its pillars. So, their latest move regarding the national oath is actually quite symbolic.

The oath that used to be taken by the students every Monday was abolished with a court decision back in 2013. Recently, the State Court decided that the oath was not discriminatory and could be reinstated. The famous oath that starts with the sentence “I am Turkish, I am honest, I am hardworking” has been criticized due to its exclusion of other ethnic groups in Anatolia. Erdoğan is against the oath not because he is a defender of pluralism, but because it is one of the remnants of the old republic.

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Kemalists wished to construct an idea of ‘Turkishness’ that is above ethnicities. They wanted to reinstate it as a unification factor that would stand above religion. Apparently, they have not been very successful on the way.

The New Turkey being shaped by Erdoğanism resembles an “umma” rather than a Kemalist nation state. Erdoğan aims to unite the new Turkey around Islam and himself, he does not possess the tolerance required for a secular identity that unites its citizens.

MHP aimed to resurrect the half-dead, but have failed so far.

About The Author

Nevsin Mengu

Born in Ankara in 1982. Studied Political Science at University of Bilkent. Did her masters on Sociology at University of Galatasaray. Worked at several news outlets like Haberturk and Hurriyet. Mostly covered Middle East as a correspondent. From 2009 to 2010, worked for TRT TURK in Tehran. From 2011 until 2017, anchored CNNTURK 18 o’clock news. Now writing opinion pieces for Birgün newspaper and doing weekly interviews for Deutsche Welle.

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