ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, announced on Monday his party would support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming presidential elections set for 2019.
“MHP will not have its own candidate. [Our party] shall back Erdogan,” Bahceli told the media in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Bahceli’s declaration has hardly come as a surprise as the opposition MHP realigned itself with Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after the government’s peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed in mid-2015.
The rapprochement between the two sides gained pace after the failed military coup attempt in July 2016.
“We believe acting with the AKP, as we did during the constitutional [referendum], would be in Turkey’s best interests,” Bahceli said.
It was up to Erdogan to re-run for the presidency or back down, he added.
The nationalist leader was referring to the April 2017 referendum on granting Erdogan with powers like dissolving the parliament, declaring a state of emergency, issuing decrees, and forming a cabinet as well as appointing top judicial, bureaucratic, and military officials without a parliamentary vote of confidence.
In tandem with Erdogan, MHP also expressed its furious opposition to the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence from Iraq late last year.
The two parties united again when a proposal to ban the use of the word “Kurdistan” was brought to vote at the Turkish Parliament.
While MHP made its stance clear for the November 2019 elections, other opposition blocs, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), are yet to nominate a figure politically strong enough to challenge Erdogan’s large base.
Last week, HDP’s imprisoned Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas who ran against Erdogan in 2014 elections ruled out a re-nomination.
In those elections, CHP had a joint candidate with the MHP, as both parties were against Erdogan’s then-ongoing negotiations with the PKK.
The upcoming elections will be the first of its kind, as voters will go to the ballot box to elect an empowered president whose post was mainly ceremonial before the April 2017 referendum where Erdogan and his AKP claimed a contested victory with a narrow 51 percent margin.
Local and parliamentary elections will also be held the same year if the AKP does not call them earlier.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany