As the alliance commission of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) kicked off meetings to discuss the details of possible joint steps in the 2019 presidential elections, opposition MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın said the alliance would create a powerful synergy that could boost votes from eastern and southeastern Anatolia. Yalçın stated that this due to people's desire for stability, prosperity, peace and a powerful Turkey and the only way to achieve this is by supporting a platform that relies on national reconciliation.
Yalçın added that the new system of governance coming into force in 2019 should be embraced by the public as it is important for its permanency and this is the MHP's main expectation from this alliance with the AK Party.
After Bahçeli defined the 10 percent electoral threshold as "cumbersome," some claimed that the MHP started the discussion of an alliance as Bahçeli was afraid of not being able to surpass the threshold. Responding to the question, Yalçın said these claims cannot be explained through goodwill while reminding that the MHP always surpasses the threshold along with their expectations and 2019 will be the same.
Answering a question about the MHP's future and its role in the new system, Yalçın said Turkey's political scene consists of a ruling party, a main opposition party and third and fourth parties for some time now and therefore he claimed that the MHP will continue to be a prominent part of Parliament.
Recently, MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli announced that the MHP will support AK Party Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2019 presidential elections. Could you explain why the MHP has announced its unconditional support for Erdoğan's presidential bid?
In order to answer your question, we must first elaborate on the July 15 coup attempt and the dynamics afterward. As you know, Turkey thwarted an existential threat on July 15 2016; we were on the verge of a disaster. It was revealed that FETÖ [Gülenist Terror Group] had infiltrated all public institutions and was organized better than expected. The terrorist organization did not only infiltrate the judiciary, but also damaged it to an extent that is almost beyond repair, causing people to lose faith in the judicial system. Moreover, they have gained a significant economic power through accumulation of immense capital. Relying on certain international actors, FETÖ also cooperated covertly with the terrorist PKK. As a result of this vital and almost inexplicable threat, the routine of politics was disrupted. All political parties, especially the ruling party, had to revise their discourses, approaches, and policies. The threat posed by FETÖ was thwarted with the courage of the Turkish people, however, as the terrorist organization and its collaborators have inflicted significant damage on the state, people and social peace, it is far from over. The systems of governance and public institutions are in need of repair.
If you noticed, the ruling party's approach in national matters and fighting against terrorism have shifted significantly. Furthermore, their understanding of the state and public also changed. The July 15 coup attempt and revelation of the FETÖ-PKK cooperation brought the MHP and the AK Party closer. It was understood that the creation of a national reconciliation base was necessary in order to repair Turkey's institutions and system. In this respect, the MHP took the initiative and tested the waters about a change in the system of governance. The AK Party supported this initiative. As a result, the constitutional amendment and the presidential system were produced. People also supported this change in the April 16 referendum. Now, the implementation of the system is the only thing left to do. We need to swiftly ratify the adjustment laws and prepare for the 2019 elections. The safe and sound implementation of the new system of governance, which is a milestone of the Republic, relies on the continuance of the said national reconciliation basis that was established after the July 15 coup attempt and consolidated with the April 16 referendum. This is only possible through the cooperation and collaboration of the MHP and the AK Party. For this reason, our chair has proposed the formation of a "public alliance" that will allow both parties to maintain their unique institutional identities. Then, Bahçeli announced that the MHP would not elect a candidate for the 2019 election and support President Erdoğan, who has backed the MHP's initiatives since the coup attempt and has a similar understanding in terms of fighting against terrorism.
The MHP has a nationalist voter base and the party shapes its policies in accordance with the voter base. How will an alliance between the MHP and the AK Party affect votes from eastern and southeastern Anatolia?
I believe you're asking whether constituents of Kurdish descent will vote for the possible public alliance. Those with malicious intents toward Turkey are trying to manipulate our citizens of Kurdish descent. They are trying to create a perception that the MHP has issues with citizens of Kurdish descent and that an alliance between the MHP and the AK Party would cause a loss of support. All of these are nothing but a farce; the MHP is the most trustable party for all of our citizens of all descents. The MHP is a guarantor of all the elements that create the Turkish nation. Indeed, we have numerous colleagues of Kurdish descent in our party.
Meanwhile, some use the term "Kurdish constituents," which is completely wrong. There is only Turkish constituents in Turkey. We don't talk about Laz constituents, Roma constituents or Circassia constituents, therefore, we cannot talk about Kurdish constituents. They are all collectively called Turkish constituents. Separating people in such a way is a violation of the constitution. Moreover, all of our citizens of Kurdish descent live in peace in every region of Turkey; they are an inseparable part of our society.
Let me tell you, the alliance between the MHP and the AK Party would create a powerful synergy that could boost votes from eastern and southeastern Anatolia because the people want stability, prosperity, peace and a powerful Turkey. The only way to achieve this is to support a platform that relies on national reconciliation.
What does the MHP expect from a "public alliance"?
We expect the 2019 elections to be held with the spirit of national reconciliation and to show the nation's will. The new system of governance coming into force in 2019 should be embraced by the public as it is important for the nation's health and permanency. This national will is to consolidate Turkey's existential fight against internal and external threats along with making the system healthy.
We don't expect anything besides this.
Both Bahçeli and Erdoğan have expressed that this alliance might go beyond the 2019 elections. How should we read their statements?
Turkey is to have a new system of governance with the 2019 elections. As I have said, it will be a milestone for the Republic and time is needed for it to settle and mature. The implementation of the adjustment laws and the adaptation of these laws by the system and public institutions will take time. Therefore, there will be a transitional period. As the party that proposed the new system of governance and played an important role in its ratification, we believe the MHP has also a role to play in its maturation. On the contrary to statements of certain circles, Parliament will become more prominent in this new era. The Parliament's collaboration and cooperation with the executive is vital for the state, not only the system. Moreover, the MHP has to be a part of a powerful group in Parliament. Turkey has to yet thwart the attempts targeting its very existence.
There allegations that one-and-a-half-year early talks about an alliance are indicators of a snap election. What is your take on these allegations?
This is a question our party has to answer, as it was the MHP that has proposed this alliance. First of all, the MHP is against snap elections as a principle. Starting up superficial discussions about snap elections at every opportunity is wrong, moreover, there is no need for snap elections. On the contrary, the elections should take place when they should and we should prepare for them.
The MHP's proposition about an alliance requires the implementation of certain amendments. Yes, there is more than one-and-a-half-years until the elections, yet, the adjustment laws should be implemented before the elections. This is not an easy task that will take three to six months. We are talking about a schedule that spreads over a year at least. If the proposition of alliance is accepted, the respective laws should be implemented while Parliament is working on the adjustment laws.
After Bahçeli described the 10 percent electoral threshold as "cumbersome," some claimed that the MHP started the discussion of an alliance as Bahçeli was afraid of being unable to surpass the threshold. What would be your response to these claims?
The 10 percent electoral threshold was implemented in the past as a countermeasure against separatist and terrorist movements. Turkey's unity was as much important as representation, however, it seems this threshold was unable to do what it was expected to do. The PKK's political extension was able to acquire a seat for their militants. Therefore, the 10 percent electoral threshold has become obsolete. Even though it didn't happen to the MHP, votes cast for smaller parties have been wasted throughout the years, while mass parties have benefited from this situation. If we are implementing a new system of governance and we agree on it as a nation, we just proposed that this threshold could be revised to better fit with the national reconciliation basis.
In this respect, these claims cannot be explained through goodwill. Certain circles desiring the MHP to be not represented in Parliament have always brought these claims when elections draw near. Yet, they are disappointed in every election. The MHP always surpasses the threshold along with their expectations. This will also be the case in 2019. You will see - the MHP will have a significant number of seats and become the most active political actor of this new era.
Meanwhile, others claim that by allying with the AK Party, the MHP is trying to secure the treasury aid provided to parties surpassing the 10 percent threshold. Is there any truth to this?
There were certain columnists making that allegation, however, these columnists are known for being against the MHP and its idealism. Their prejudices cloud their minds. They are blinded by enmity. In fact, the threshold for treasury aid has been lowered to 3 percent with a change in the law.
Therefore, this allegation is nothing but a farce. Moreover, the MHP always prioritizes its cause over anything else.
Will the MHP and AK Party also cooperate in the 2019 municipal elections? Could the two parties elect a joint candidate?
Bahçeli has expressed that this alliance is for the presidential elections, however, the possibility is there. We haven't discussed whether we would cooperate with the AK Party in municipal elections. The leaders of both parties will decide whether this will be the case. If the AK Party comes up with such a proposition, we could evaluate it. Yet, as I have said, we haven't discussed it.
How will political alliances shape Turkish politics in the near future? Are we evolving toward a two-party system? What does the future hold for the MHP?
Turkey's social structure wouldn't enable a two-party system. Conservatives constitute the majority in Turkish politics, yet, it is a combination of various political movements. It is possible to observe each and every instance of political movements in Turkey. There are even parties that have yet to run for elections with a small but dedicated group of supporters. In this respect, it is impossible to fit these various and numerous movements into only two categories. Even if people gather around two prominent figures in the presidential race, they will cast their votes to the political parties they support in parliamentary elections. As the MHP is aware of this fact, we proposed an amendment that allows political alliances while keeping the parties and their unique political identity intact. This is a more realistic approach that caters to the political reality in Turkey. Even though it was legally prohibited to form alliances, political parties have had de facto alliances in the past.
Our concern is that it should be done legally. Indeed, Turkey's political scene consists of a ruling party, a main opposition party and third and fourth parties for some time now. I believe this will continue to be the case after 2019. The MHP will continue to be a prominent part of Parliament.
What kind of a bloc will be formed against the AK Party-MHP alliance? Could this bloc be successful?
If this public alliance becomes a reality, it will rely on national reconciliation. Any party could join. This alliance will be all about the people. I believe the Turkish public will lend this alliance a landslide victory, which will allow us to repair and restructure everything that was damaged after the July 15 coup attempt. Those who don't want Turkey to recuperate will gather as an opposing bloc and will attempt to undermine us. However, they have nothing to hold on to. How are they going to explain their stance to the public? Will they even dare to include the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the PKK's political wing, into their bloc? If they do so, the public will exact punishment by not voting for them. Even if they refrain from being under the guidance of those with malicious intent toward Turkey, their votes will be divided among various parties. In short, they have no chance against a public alliance which relies on national reconciliation.
If the AK Party-MHP alliance wins the 2019 elections, what kind of policies and government could we expect?
First of all, as the president will come into force with the votes of the majority, it will be a powerful government. In terms of issues like the fight against terrorism, dignified foreign policy and the 2023 vision, the government will be more decisive. This government will be effective against FETÖ and the PKK, which is crucial for the existence of Turkey. Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) attempts to filibuster will be thwarted. Parliament will become more powerful and effective, while cooperating with the government. The presidential system will enter our lives in such a way.