Former interior minister and deputy speaker of the Turkish Parliament Meral Akşener on Wednesday launched a political party to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkish media reported.
The İyi Parti (Good Party, İP), operating under the motto “Turkey Will Be Good,” was announced during a program attended by thousands of supporters at the Nazım Hikmet Cultural Center in the Turkish capital of Ankara, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.
A large group in the audience chanted “Prime Minister Meral!” to which Akşener responded, “I will be president.”
In her speech Akşener said: “The post-modern national chief period [Erdoğan’s authoritarian presidential rule] has started, but it won’t last long. Turkey is exhausted; the nation is exhausted.”
In addition to being heavily critical of the current authoritarian Islamist government and the president, Akşener also slammed the militant secularist elites who suppressed civilian political life two decades ago when she served as minister of internal affairs. “I would like to address the mighty [military and civilian] groups of Feb. 28 [the ‘post-modern coup’ of 1997 that ousted the conservative-Islamist government]. Are you happy? Our nation, which you [suffocated] while trying to protect them, took the path of those [the AKP] who promised them freedom. Now they [the AKP] are assuming your [militant, secularist, authoritarian] role. The politician you tried to frighten, the woman you defamed, is here. I don’t know where you are.
“We are still marching with our nation. The mighty ones of Feb. 28 are waiting. The mighty ones of today will go to the dustbin of history, right next to you. Don’t worry about Turkey. Eighty million [Turks] are determined to live freely and share fairly, be a strong Turkey of 80 million… Today is Oct. 25, 2017. This is a march to power. This is a march of freedom. This is a march of democracy for our nation. This is a march of a strong Turkey. We will succeed. May Allah be with us!”
According to the Hürriyet Daily News, a split in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) during the April 16 constitutional referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system sped up the foundation of the new party, after MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli supported the changes pushed by President Erdoğan.
Despite splits in the MHP, the party’s official backing helped the “yes” campaign secure a narrow win in the referendum. Akşener and her followers campaigned for a “no” vote and accused Bahçeli of being too close to the government.
Upon adopting a critical stance against Bahçeli and standing as a candidate for party leadership against him, Akşener was expelled by the MHP disciplinary committee in September 2016 by unanimous vote.
Akşener was Turkey’s first female interior minister and served in that position between 1996 and 1997 until the government, a conservative-Islamist coalition, was ousted by the Turkish military.