İP faces collapse following aftermath of failure in local elections

TUĞÇE KILIÇ
ISTANBUL
Published 05.04.2019 00:15

A bumpy road lies ahead for the far-right Good Party (İP) after the party suffered a massive failure in the March 31 local elections, not winning any provincial municipalities and in doing so, minimizing its role to a mere sidekick of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

"The biggest loser of the elections was the İP. In the upcoming period, the İP is most likely to encounter intraparty discussions revolving around its ideological foundation, failed election strategies and the discrepancies between the voter base and party members in the administration," Nebi Miş, a political analyst, told Daily Sabah.

In Sunday's municipal elections, İP candidates lost the elections in all 22 provinces they entered on their own against the People's Alliance formed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The party received 7.45 percent of the votes nationwide and finished third, far behind the MHP, the ideological rival of the İP. While the MHP won 156 municipalities with a 7.31 percent share of votes, the İP only managed to win 25 municipalities.

On the other hand, the CHP garnered the most benefit from the alliance with the İP, by winning in Istanbul and Ankara according to unofficial results, thanks to votes coming from the base of their sidekick.

Experts agree that after two consecutive unsuccessful elections, the party is doomed to drift into chaos full of intraparty discussions and a chain of resignations, just as in the June 24 elections.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Oğuzhan Bilgin, an academic, underscored that after the elections, the already fragile legitimacy of Meral Akşener as the chairwoman of the İP will be open to discussion. 

"A tug of war between members who resigned from the MHP to join the İP and other members who had no connection with the MHP is expected to happen," he added.

The İP has been on the rocks for some time after failure in the June 24 elections and the party organization's discomfort over the alliance talks with the CHP. Local party organizations protested their administration for not consulting them for the alliance negotiations concerning their provinces. Some of them resigned from their posts in protest of the administration.

Although pundits say otherwise, and the party Deputy Chairman Ümit Özdağ recently resigned reportedly because of the failure in the elections, İP Secretary-General Cihan Paçacı, for instance, evaluates "party's success" as an increase in district municipalities. According to Paçacı, prior to the March 31 elections, the İP had eight district municipalities, which in fact were handed over to the party by former MHP party members to join the newly established İP, to 25 district municipalities.

Commenting on the issue, Mustafa Altunoğlu, an academic from Anadolu University, stressed that the İP also considers itself symbolically successful, because the Nation Alliance damaged the decade-old rule of the AK Party in the two biggest metropolitan cities.

Indeed, Paçacı also regards the CHP's lead in the mayoral race as the İP's, one of the successes in the elections since it undermined the ruling party's hold over local administrations, which experts interpret as the initial signals of deeper structural problems in the party.

Pointing at a change in the ideological agenda and poor performance of the party in two previous elections, Miş underscored that a raison d'être solely based on the common ground of anti-AK Party rhetoric hints at the lack of their own political agenda.

The İP is an offshoot of the nationalist MHP that was formed when a group of party members split from the party due to MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli's cooperation with the AK Party. Having failed to dislodge Bahçeli in a heated judicial process, MHP dissidents left the party in 2016 and established Akşener's leadership in October 2017. Akşener first created a splinter movement within the party, then quit and formed her own. Much like its parent party, the IP had a nationalist stance, yet it drifted away from its initial raison d'être by cooperating with the left-secular CHP.

Stressing that the İP was initially founded with the dream of becoming the ruling party, while Akşener was regarded as "the she-wolf" and alternative rightist opposition that would put President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a tough spot, Bilgin noted that considering the high aims and expectations of the party when it was first established, the İP's election performance and what they regard as success have become a disappointment for its voter base.

On June 24, 2018 Akşener was only able to gather some 7 percent of the votes, staying well below the hype created home and abroad. Her party, on the other hand, was able to send deputies into Parliament thanks to the alliance formed with the CHP. It received around 9.95 percent of the votes. Following the elections, the party was crippled by intraparty debates and disagreements.

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