The aftermath

A week has passed since the Nov. 1 election that stunned both Turks and foreigners alike.
We have heard and read all sorts of explanations on why the Turkish electorate made such a choice. Many of the analyses made sense and we are now observing the developments in politics with this experience behind us.
The immediate and somewhat predictable response to the election outcome among the opposition was in the framework of leadership challenges. It appears there will be several candidates challenging Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP)hairman Kemal Kiliandcdaroilu in the upcoming party convention. I doubt any of the contenders have a chance of defeating Kiliandcdaroilu at the convention given that the Alevi delegates are actually quite happy with the partyand’s affairs. They are unlikely to ditch their chairman in response to an election where the CHP did not do that well but also did not suffer a crushing defeat, as was the case with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Also, those who want a change in the CHP appear to be focusing on change at the leadership level only. The party has many more problems than merely a change at the top. The inability to recognize those problems does not bode well for the future of the CHP.
The situation in the MHP is more complicated and worthy of more analysis. Predictably, MHP supporters, party officials and its ideologues are extremely unhappy with Devlet Bahandceliand’s performance on Nov. 1. They see the current outcome as an existential threat to their partyand’s future as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its eye on their base and they have ample means to achieve that. MHP supporters are concerned the AKP will swallow its base and pretty much push the party into oblivion. Calls for an extraordinary party convention abound but there are some difficulties in pushing the party into a convention that would have a leadership election.
The MHPand’s bylaws do not allow for a leadership election to take place in an extraordinary convention. Hence, the opposition needs to first gather a convention and push for a change in the bylaws of the party allowing for a leadership election. Once that is accomplished, perhaps a few weeks later a second extraordinary convention could be gathered and a leadership election can then take place. That sounds all neat and orderly but it is no easy task as Bahandceli has command over the MHP delegates. That said, there is such a strong sentiment among the base it will be difficult for Bahandceli to fend off the challenge, especially if it is led by Meral Akiener. Akiener is a seasoned politician and has a very positive image among the party base. Further, she is seen as a victim of Bahandceliand’s erratic choices prior to the election, where she found herself taken off the partyand’s candidate list. Akiener comes from a center-right background and thus may appeal more to centrist voters as well.
Given the lack of an alternative to the AKP, what might occur within the MHP may well have significant consequences for politics. However, that is only possible if the leadership challenge to Bahandceli also means the party embracing a larger audience and moving toward the center. A simple change of cadres within the MHP may only secure the continuation of the MHP as a party with 11-15 percent, whereas a deliberate choice to move the party to the center may have a lot more meaning for the country.


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