MHP’s 11.1 percent election support stuns observers

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Devlet Bahceli, Leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) speaks to the press after casting his ballot at a polling station during snap twin Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in Ankara, on June 24, 2018. Turks began voting in dual parliamentary and presidential polls seen as the President's toughest election test, with the opposition revitalised and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

As Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Public Alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased their support in Sunday’s elections over that in a referendum held last year, the MHP’s 11.1 percent share of the vote has stunned observers.

After the İYİ (Good) Party’s Meral Akşener and some of her allies left the MHP, many expected the MHP to garner around 5 percent of the vote; however, the Turkish nationalists’ front unexpectedly increased its support in predominantly Kurdish areas in southeastern Turkey.

“So for the real surprise in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). At 11% it has performed much better than expected. It will have a formidable bargaining power in the coalition with AKP,” Henri Barkey, a senior fellow for the Middle East at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted.

The MHP had 16.3 percent support in the June 7, 2015 elections and 11.9 percent in Nov. 1, 2015 snap elections.

“Even though a drift occurred from the MHP’s grass roots to the İYİ Party, the former seems to cover that from the votes coming from [Justice and Development Party],” an analysis on BBC Turkish service said.

The MHP’s success also gave Erdoğan a clear win in the presidential race.

“Erdoğan’s tactic of allying with [MHP leader Devlet] Bahçeli proved a success. The June 24 election proved that without the MHP, Erdoğan could not have been re-elected and the AK Party could have lost its majority in parliament,” Murat Yetkin of the Hürriyet Daily News wrote on Monday.

According to projections based on unofficial results from the state-run Anadolu news agency, the MHP will have 49 seats in parliament, while the AKP will have 295.

In the new executive presidential system, narrowly backed in a 2017 referendum, the number of members of parliament has been increased from 550 to 600, indicating that the AKP will need the MHP’s support to exercise legislative power.

While observers were expecting him to be sworn as one of Erdoğan’s vice presidents, Bahçeli has repeatedly refused to be part of the new cabinet, which will be formed by the president as the executive body of Turkey.

“Our nation has made the MHP a key party,” Bahçeli said after the election, adding that the public approved the new system and that MHP would be a decisive actor in governance.

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