Turkish nationalists to support AK Party in three biggest cities in 2019 local poll

Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will support President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the country’s three largest cities in next year’s local elections, it has been reported.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said that his party would not put forward any mayoral candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir for the elections due to take place nationwide on Sunday, 31 March 2019.

“Whoever the [AKP] candidates are in these three big cities our support will be total,”Bahçeli was quoted as telling officials from his party in a recent speech in Antalya.

The MHP will still put forward candidates in other municipalities, he said, stressing that there had been no “secret agreement” with the AKP.

The move was seen by commentators as a boost for the AKP, particularly in Ankara, where its controversial candidate Melih Gökçek won the mayoralty by just a one per cent margin in 2014 over the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Mansur Yavaş.

The MHP’s candidate, Mevlüt Karakaya, came third in the capital, with nearly eight per cent of the votes.

Mr Gökçek resigned as mayor in October last year, after 23 years in the post, following a shake-up of the AKP at the insistence of Erdoğan. The AKP leader wanted to inject fresh blood into the party which has dominated Turkish politics since entering office in 2002.

Columnist Yusuf Kanlı, writing for Hürriyet Daily News, speculated that Mr Gökçek could make a comeback as a “joint”AKP-MHP candidate, while parliamentary speaker and former prime minister Binali Yıldırım was named as a possible candidate for Istanbul.

The AKP and the MHP agreed to an alliance ahead of last June’s parliamentary and presidential elections, replicating their cooperation ahead of the 2017 referendum which brought in a new presidential system of government Turkey.

But last month Mr Bahçeli said that he would not repeat the pact at the next years’ local elections.

His remarks at the time led to a brief fall in the value of the Turkish lira due to concerns that it would spark political instability.

It was not clear exactly what prompted Mr Bahçeli to change his stance, although some reports said it came after a meeting with President Erdoğan.

Meanwhile other reports have suggested that the CHP could join forces with the İyi (Good) Party for the local elections.

İyi Party leader Meral Akşener confirmed on Tuesday, 27 November, that she has being holding talks with CHP officials.

The talks on nine metropolitan municipalities are still ongoing and have not reached a result yet,”she was quoted as telling reporters.

Ms Akşener plans to hold a second meeting after CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu returns from Germany, it was said.

The leader of the Felicity Party (FP), Temel Karamollaoğlu, reportedly met with Mr Kılıçdaroğlu on Monday, 26 November, saying that the two parties could be “in close contact” ahead of the 2019 local elections.