MHP holds congress on Nevruz day, slams settlement process

ANKARA: The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli, addressing a party congress on Saturday that coincided with Nevruz celebrations in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, slammed a government drive to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish issue through talks with the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan.

In a speech full of strong criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and frequently interrupted by enthusiastic applauds and slogans from the audience, Bahceli accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of collaborating with the PKK in a scheme of “treason” that he said brought Turkey on the “brink of a disaster.”

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Diyarbakir to hear a letter from Ocalan during Nevruz celebrations as the MHP congress was held in Ankara.

MHP officials indicate that the timing is intentional, in order to show that Nevruz is not only a Kurdish festival but an old and cherished Turkish tradition as well.

In reference to the announcement of Ocalan’s 2-page letter in Diyarbakir, Bahceli said an AK Party-PKK coalition has turned Nevruz into an event in support of “separatism.”

“Letters of treason are being read out. Nevruz is being tainted,” he said.

Bahceli accused the AK Party government of having “agreed with the PKK to divide the country” and added that a new constitution, promoted by Erdogan and the AK Party, will “certify the treason.”

Erdogan promotes a new constitution that will allow a transition from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system that will boost his executive powers. Speculation is rife that the constitutional overhaul is part of an agreement between the AK Party and the Kurds under which AK Party will get the presidential system it wants while the Kurds will be granted autonomy and other demands including Ocalan’s release from jail.

“Erdogan’s aspirations for presidential system and the PKK’s desire to divide the country overlap,” Bahceli said, insisting that the PKK has not abandoned arms and has no intention to do so.

The MHP leader also said a 10-article declaration by Ocalan, which was announced on Feb. 28 after talks between the government and politicians from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), was a “blueprint for the disintegration of the country,” and warned that the MHP patience is wearing thin in the face of the developments unfolding as part of the settlement process.

Bahceli was reelected as the MHP chairman, winning all of the 1,149 valid votes cast by delegates attending the congress.