The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Tuesday announced it will compete with its own candidates in Türkiye’s upcoming parliamentary elections, dismissing claims of running joint candidates with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with whom it is partners with under the electoral bloc People’s Alliance.
“While it’s possible for the other two parties in the alliance to participate in the elections with their own names and candidates, it’s not a reasonable option for the MHP to be eager or make an attempt for joint candidacy,” the party leader Devlet Bahçeli said as he slammed “many recent deliberate and baseless rumors” about the issue.
“The MHP will demonstrate its democratic struggle with its emblem and esteemed deputy candidates in the elections and achieve the success it deserves,” he stressed in a move met with surprise for its potential influence on the People’s Alliance’s odds in winning the majority of Parliament seats.
Lambasting “efforts to raise misperceptions from certain circles to back the MHP into a corner and negate its 54-year history,” Bahçeli emphasized his party’s “devotion to the principles and goals” of the People’s Alliance.
He further reiterated the party’s endorsement of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the alliance’s joint candidate and noted that the MHP will “work tirelessly to ensure Mr. Erdoğan is reelected.”
The People’s Alliance, which formally includes the AK Party, the MHP and the Great Union Party (BBP), recently welcomed the New Welfare Party (YRP) and the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR). The parties inked an alliance protocol for the elections.
The YRP agreed to endorse the alliance and Erdoğan after its chairperson Fatih Erbakan withdrew his candidacy while HÜDA-PAR announced their parliamentary candidates would be nominated from AK Party nomination lists and the party would informally support Erdoğan.
Ali Ihsan Yavuz, deputy chair of the AK Party in charge of the party’s electoral affairs, corroborated Bahçeli’s decision, verifying that HÜDA-PAR is to run via AK Party lists while the other three parties are preparing to nominate candidates under their own names.
“I have been saying for a while that we see eye to eye on this matter anyway. Mr. Bahçeli’s attitude is the same as ours,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
He pointed to a clause in the Parliamentary Election Law that stipulates a party cannot compete in the election if there are no lists in 41 specific places.
“The law defines running under your own name in 41 places and preparing joint candidate lists outside of those 41 places as a hybrid model. That’s how we will be doing it,” he said.
“I cannot say anything about whether this is suitable for us or not but the parties are currently pondering over this.”
Yavuz also explained that whichever party receives the votes, their lawmaker will earn the seat; if not, the votes will be marked as null.
“Both the People’s Alliance and Nation Alliance are aware of this. What the Nation Alliance will do about it from now on remains to be seen,” he said.
The applications for parliamentary seats closed last week as some 6,025 people, primarily women, chose the AK Party, lower than some 7,000 candidates who applied in the last parliamentary election but far ahead of those who applied to the AK Party’s main rival Republican People’s Party (CHP), which received about 3,500 applications.
Candidates will compete for 600 seats in the unicameral Turkish Parliament, which is formally known as the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye (TBMM). But first, they need to move to the next step: approval of parties’ administrations. The candidate-picking process is often shrouded in mystery though loyalty to the party and political experience are among the main criteria. In other cases, parties themselves nominate candidates instead of in-person applications.
In the upcoming vote, the AK Party plans to field ministers as candidates from big cities. Erdoğan has also recently announced that Vice President Fuat Oktay will be nominated for Parliament from the capital Ankara. Erdoğan has formed a largely technocrat government and none of his ministers were members of Parliament as was the case in past governments. But the AK Party plans to change this in the upcoming elections, particularly by nominating ministers from provinces hit by the Feb. 6 earthquakes in the country’s south.
The AK Party has a three-term limit for lawmakers to run again, but the party sometimes eases the rule for certain lawmakers. It is yet unclear to whom the limit will be applied, but Erdoğan in a speech on Wednesday assured “new names” would join the ranks.
Erdoğan has three other contenders for the top office in the CHP chairperson and six-party opposition bloc Nation Alliance’s joint candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, ex-CHP member and now Homeland Party (MP) leader Muharrem Ince, and former MHP member and Ata Alliance candidate Sinan Oğan.
While Ince, a former teacher who personally lost to both Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan in the 2018 presidential vote, and Oğan boast strong rhetoric, the race is broadly considered to be between Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu.