The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) “People’s Alliance” partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) officials said that they learned about the AKP’s visit to Kurdish-issue focused People’s Democracy Party (HDP) from the media. Their declaration of “not being informed about the visit” stirred the opposition backstages, one rumor followed the other. Everyone pointed nationalist leader Devlet Bahçeli’s parliamentary group speech, where some argued that he would announce an early election, breaking the alliance with President Tayyip Erdoğan, others argued that he would slam the meeting.
His speech proved them wrong.
“AKP’s meeting with HDP to talk about constitutional amendment voting is natural and right,” he said.
What the rumors overlooked was that Erdoğan and Bahçeli had tied their political destinies in partnership of power.
Even though Bahçeli regards HDP as a terrorist organization and wants it to be closed down; AKP-HDP meeting was not as severe as a meeting with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, for him. It wasn’t worth breaking up the partnership.
As a matter of fact, when the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) members met with HDP members, Bahçeli had said, “It is the same as meeting with the PKK.”
After defending the AKP’s meeting, he said that “HDP is what CHP is to us.”
Thus, Bahçeli wanted to show that he was aware of the trap set by the opposition but would not fall into it.
On the other hand, I hope he is aware that with the AKP’s move with the HDP, to criminalize the CHP’s possible future meetings with the HDP members as an “alliance of evil” has lost its credibility.
Bilateral challenges in the People’s Alliance
At this point we can ask a question. Could it be that Erdogan tested Bahçeli with this move, and Bahçeli passed this test? Because just last week, when Bahçeli was harsh to AKP’s Senior Official Mahir Ünal for criticizing Atatürk’s republic reform, Erdoğan, without hesitation, “excused” Ünal from the AKP Group Deputy Chairmanship. It was not the first gesture to Bahçeli. Even Bülent Arınç, one of the founders of the AKP with Erdoğan, had his share from Bahçeli’s fury.
These gestures are not one-sided, of course. For example, let’s remember that Erdogan refused MHP’s wish to lower the electoral threshold from 10 percent to 5 percent and told Bahçeli that they can agree on 7 percent. It is known that there are those within the AKP who are against the closure of the HDP, despite the MHP’s desire. It is said in the political backstage that the HDP closure case is unlikely to be concluded until the elections, especially now that the dialogue has begun.
DEVA leader Ali Babacan defines the People’s Alliance as “One cannot form a government without the other, and the other rules the country without a government”; maybe that’s why they tolerate whatever the other is doing.
Will the constitutional amendment be shelved?
We will be able to observe this attitude about the issue of constitutional amendment in the near future. When CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu proposed the “Headscarf Law”, Erdoğan challenged him for “constitutional amendment”. However, according to Bahçeli, headscarf was not an issue anymore. In addition, the deeply religious section of the AKP did not want the regulations on headscarf/turban freedom to be voted together with the LGBT bans.
Of course, there was also the possibility of losing the referendum, even if the constitutional amendment is approved in the parliament with 360 votes. In order for a constitutional change to be presented to a referendum, 360 votes are needed in the parliament. If the number of votes reach 400, then the amendment is enacted directly without a referendum. AKP and MHP have 344 seats in the parliament; with HDP’s support, it reaches 390. It can directly be enacted only if small parties and independent lawmakers vouch for the amendment.
Erdoğan said on Monday that he believed it was wrong to present rights and freedoms to the referendum; If it is the case, then he wishes the amendment to be enacted in the parliament directly. Why did he not say that when he proposed a constitutional amendment referendum after Kılıçdaroğlu proposed a legislative regulation in the first place?
The CHP’s proposal for a law will be rejected by the votes of the AKP and the MHP as it is the case for all proposals of the opposition. However, if both the CHP and their six-party alliance come to power, they have registered that they will not open this issue.
Political solidarity in the Nation Alliance is weak
It should be noted that the internal political solidarity and common interest in the AKP-MHP’s “People’s Alliance” seems stronger than in the CHP- İYİ Party relationship in the “Nation Alliance”. While some names in the IYI Party and CHP are almost looking for their allies’ mistakes, the AKP and MHP members are trying to cover up for each others’ mistakes.
In recent weeks, though, we’ve seen two examples that are not quite like that. For example, the IYI Party refrained from criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu’s travels to the USA and England, which it did not approve of. On the other hand, the CHP put up with Meral Akşener’s inviting Independent Turkey Party (BTP) to the six party alliance without consulting the CHP or the alliance.
Political balances in the CHP and İmamoğlu case
We witnessed CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu’s intervention in the political balances within the CHP in his address to the parliamentary group on November 8.
Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu responded quickly to Kılıçdaroğlu’s previous message where the leader asked “who is with me?”. He swiftly answered, “yes,” but it was spoken in the political backstage that they are not on good terms.
However, the situation changed after the previous judge of the case where İmamoğlu has been under trial for insulting state officials, Hüseyin Zengin, claimed that he was pressured to give İmamoğlu a prison sentence of more than two years to impose a political ban. He said that when he refused, he was dismissed from the case.
CHP officials stated that AKP tried to regain the mayoralties that it had lost with the 2019 elections by using their political influence on the judiciary in order to gain advantage in the 2023 elections. The recent dismissal of CHP İstanbul Provincial Head Canan Kaftancıoğlu with a 4 years prison sentence can be an example for that.
Kılıçdaroğlu stood up for CHP’s Mayor and said, “Imamoğlu is a big bite” in the CHP group; “It gets stuck in your throat and stays. We don’t let İmamoğlu be sacrificed to anyone.” That same evening, İmamoğlu said on the Halk TV screen, “If you win Istanbul, you win Turkey.”
I still think that İmamoğlu’s name is not out of the possibility in the candidacy list. Nor is Mansur Yavaş or Akşener, even though she says she is not. Although Kılıçdaroğlu wants the candidacy, it seems that he has to make his decision together with the Six Tables.