Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli Sunday lashed out at the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) for cooperating with pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the March 31 local elections, calling on "genuine" party members to stand against the CHP's incumbent Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Speaking at an election rally held in Bilecik's Söğüt, an important city for nationalists where the Ottoman Empire was founded, Bahçeli underscored that the CHP's cooperation with the HDP undermines the national interest of the country and accused the party of betraying its raison d'etre. "I am calling on actual members of CHP [to] abandon Kılıçdaroğlu," he said, referring to the core members of the party.
Kılıçdaroğlu has been accused by many party members, as well as the right-wing electorate of Turkey, for excluding nationalist figures from the party's high echelons, since he took the post in 2009. Under Kılıçdaroğlu's rule, the profile of decision-making mechanisms and party organizations has changed drastically; many veteran nationalist CHP figures were marginalized and replaced by people close to leftist movements.
Pointing at the PKK's Syrian offshoot People's Protection Units' (YPG) attacks targeting Turkey, Bahçeli also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu's previous remarks suggesting that the "YPG would not attack Turkey."
The Turkish government has long accused the HDP of close links with the PKK. The HDP is known for its support of autonomy in regions where large Kurdish populations live. Also, some of its members have been charged with or accused of having links to the PKK terrorist organization. Its former co-leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, was arrested in November 2016 over terrorist propaganda. Many of its members have often voiced overt support for the PKK.
The CHP has refrained from officially including the HDP, which has been condemned for its close ties with the PKK, in its electoral alliance with the far-right Good Party (İP) amid fears of a possible backlash from its secular-nationalist voter base. Yet, the recently announced candidate lists for the upcoming elections unveiled the scope of cooperation between the CHP and HDP, which led to harsh reactions within its own party organization.
Bahçeli's election rally in Söğüt was the first rally of the MHP's election campaign. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had decided to support the MHP's mayoral candidate in Söğüt. Accordingly, the MHP did not field its own candidate in Van's Ahlat, another historically significant city for Turkish people, in favor of the AK Party as a part of alliance negotiations. Following Söğüt's rally, Bahçeli is scheduled to visit Ankara, Yozgat, Kırıkkale, Kastamonu, Çankırı, Aksaray, Nevşehir, Zonguldak and Manisa respectively.
The first joint election rally of the People's Alliance formed by the two parties will be next Sunday in İzmir with the participation of both Bahçeli and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Bahçeli is expected to put emphasis on the importance of the People's Alliance for the future of the country and call on people to come to the polls in his rallies.