TURKEY

MHP Deputy Chair Sadir Durmaz: People's Alliance has become the people's hope, will be victor of June 24 elections

MHP Deputy Chair Durmaz said both AK Party and MHP have nationalistic sensitivities and a desire to implement a more powerful administrative system that will be able to overcome all sorts of threats.

The People's Alliance, formed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will win both the presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, MHP Deputy Chair Durmaz said, adding that the alliance prioritizes the survival of nation instead of party interests

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) partner in the People's Alliance, believes that they will sweep both the parliamentary and the presidential elections on June 24.

Underscoring that the alliance will be maintained even after the elections, MHP Deputy Chairman Sadir Durmaz expressed that both parties prioritize the survival of the nation and that the July 15, 2016 coup attempt perpetrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has led to the convergence.

Are there other reasons which led the MHP to become a part of an alliance with the AK Party? Will the MHP continue to be a part of the alliance after the elections? How does the MHP respond to the discourse and promises of the opposing Nation Alliance? What will render the People's Alliance successful? Daily Sabah spoke with the MHP's front man to get the answers.

Daily Sabah: The June 24 elections are drawing near and they will be one of the most crucial in Turkey's history. The AK Party and MHP have taken a landmark decision by forming an alliance and will cooperate in both the parliamentary and presidential elections. What motivated the MHP to form this alliance?

Sadir Durmaz: The MHP is a political party which prioritizes the country and its people over itself; our party consists of God-fearing members who believe the public is and should always be at the center of politics. Naturally, when the survival of this nation is the case, we will act accordingly. As you know, Turkey is going through hard times. Turkey faced a heinous coup attempt in the first quarter of the 21st century. Our nation was threatened and there was an attempt to annihilate it. Taking all of this into consideration, the MHP prioritized the survival of the nation and stood by the government and democracy. The main motivation of the MHP has always been patriotism and loyalty to the nation.

DS: Considering that the AK Party and MHP are products of different political movements, was the formation of the alliance challenging?

SD: Personally, I believe these differences were overcome rather easily as both parties realized that they were on the same page in regards to national politics. What really matters is the future of our country and the need to ensure its continuity. As the traumatic events we experienced as a nation necessitated solidarity, the two parties were able to create this alliance and be sincere in this matter. There was a strong motivation. The MHP's sincere and stalwart stance in counterterrorism against Turkey's attempted isolation also consolidated this alliance.

DS: Turkey is simultaneously fighting against three separate terrorist organizations, especially after the July 15 coup attempt. You are asserting that the two parties prioritize the future of the nation, hence met on common ground.

SD: Definitely. Both parties have nationalistic sensitivities, concerns regarding the future of the country and a desire to implement a more powerful administrative system which will allow overcoming threats. These common notions led to a convergence. We believe the presidential government system is the way to achieve a more powerful administration.

DS: How does the MHP approach the presidential government system that will be implemented after June 24?

SD: As our chair, Mr. [Devlet] Bahçeli, expressed, the MHP as a part of the People's Alliance will do whatever necessary to institutionalize this new system of governance. Moreover, it was the MHP that proposed this system of governance as we believe it will ensure Turkey's future. Turkey shouldn't be ungovernable anymore. As a country which suffered from an attempted coup in the first quarter of the 21stcentury, we don't have the luxury to experience more trauma and incidents. We should take every precaution possible; for this reason, this change in the system of governance was proposed.

DS: How do you evaluate the performance of the alliance up until now? How does the MHP voter base perceive the alliance?

SD: I believe we're performing pretty well. The People's Alliance has become the hope and the future of the Turkish public. It ensures Turkey's continuity and reflects the will of the nation. People's expectations allowed the manifestation of this alliance; we continue to listen closely to the demands of the public.

Meanwhile, the MHP voter base also supports this alliance as the survival of this nation is one of the MHP's main principles. Without a doubt, this alliance has been embraced by our supporters.

DS: Unlike the opposition, the AK Party and MHP formed an alliance for both the presidential and the parliamentary elections. Is this advantageous or disadvantageous for the MHP? What do the polls reveal?

SD: As I have said, the main issue for the MHP is to ensure Turkey's continued survival as a nation. In this regard, we didn't evaluate advantages and disadvantages. It's a supra-political stance; the permanence of our national unity is the most pressing matter. We have to hold on to the millennia-old brotherhood and sisterhood. In this respect, I don't believe it's appropriate to evaluate advantages and disadvantages. We believe the public will appreciate our sincere and stalwart stance regarding the continued survival and the future of the country. This is what we see in the public.

DS: Could it be argued that Turkey needed this alliance?

SD: As you know, Turkey has been fighting against the PKK terrorist organization for over 25 years. Certain powers tried to realize what the PKK couldn't by pushing [the Gülenist Terror Group] FETÖ to the front during the July 15 coup attempt. When all failed, they employed Daesh to attack Turkey. Taking domestic incidents like Gezi Park into consideration, they tried to do whatever they can to create chaos in Turkey. They continue to threaten Turkey; these threats are yet to be eliminated. In such a situation our leader prioritized the survival of the country and its people over his own party and took the initiative to secure Turkey's future. This is what the MHP is all about.

DS: Do you believe the discourses and promises of People's Alliance are enough to secure victory? How is the MHP contributing to the electoral process?

SD: In the current legislative term, the MHP has realized many of its promises to the public; we hope to realize our promises in the next legislative term with a strong representation as well if the people bestow us their support. I believe promises of the People's Alliance appeal to all walks of life in Turkey. The MHP has especially prominent promises to the public, which we believe satisfies their demands.

For instance, the implementation of legal regulation which will address issues regarding retirement, tax exemption for people earning minimum wage, providing tenure for specialized sergeants, improvement of employee rights for members of the security force and providing temporary or permanent contracts to subcontracted workers are some of our promises. We are also working on other plans like the improvement of engineers' employee rights and better depreciation payment for health care workers which are received positively by the public. We'll continue to evaluate what we can promise.

DS: Turkey's 2023 goals are prominent in the MHP's election manifesto. What will the MHP's responsibilities be if the People's Alliance wins the majority of seats in Parliament and the presidential government system is implemented?

SD: Firstly, our 2023 goals were outlined at the first party congress held after the passing of Alparslan Türkeş, the founder of our party, in 1997. Our late founder referred to 2023 and 2053 as the centennial celebration of foundation of Turkey and the 600th anniversary of conquest of Istanbul respectively. He defined Turkey as a leading country and a superpower.

In this respect, the MHP has long been advocating the unitary structure of Turkey in this challenging region along with building a better and stronger Turkey against threats to the nation. It's flattering that the MHP's 2023 goals have been embraced by other political parties as well; moreover, we're happy that these goals have also became the goals of the People's Alliance. I believe these national goals will secure our future. We would desire the opposition parties constituting the opposing alliance to have similar goals; however, looking at their election manifestos, they have many expressions which seemingly enable those who want to secede and exacerbate terrorism, unfortunately. I believe the people will evaluate these manifestos accordingly and will give credit to the manifestos of the People's Alliance.

DS: There are two weeks until the elections and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the joint candidate of the People's Alliance, is seemingly ahead in the polls. What is your forecast regarding the outcome of both the presidential and parliamentary elections?

SD: I believe that these polling firms which are trying to bend the will of the people with FETÖ's dirty money will experience a defeat like no other. I'm definite about this. The best poll you can conduct is by being among the people in person. God willing, our current research indicates that the People's Alliance will have a landslide victory in the first round of presidential elections. Without a doubt, the public believes in our alliance and is aware of the alliance's importance.

DS: How do you evaluate the discourse, candidates and campaign of the opposing Nation Alliance? Do they have projects and discourses that could allow the alliance to become a true alternative to the People's Alliance?

SD: Honestly, I haven't seen anything substantial. Since the beginning of their campaign, they have been talking about how they will abolish certain regulations, remove certain institutions and such. All political parties participating in the elections are responsible of expressing in what way and how they will contribute to Turkey; however, parties constituting the Nation Alliance, which we call the "Derogation Alliance," are jointly talking about how they will darken Turkey's future. For this reason, I don't believe the people of Turkey trust them and their discourses. They are conducting a negative campaign.

Most recently, Republican People's Party's (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce's statement about "ripping the epaulets" of the Afrin Operation Commander İsmail Temel was scandalous. Previously, the CHP had opposed the operation; in this respect, this expression is nothing but sending a message to the PKK and sympathizing with the terrorist organization. It was truly a shameful statement. People of this country bestow and remove those epaulets; not İnce or any other figure.

Whenever Turkey launches an operation to ensure its national interests and secure its borders, the CHP becomes irritated. Now, they're telling the government to not launch an operation to the PKK-occupied Qandil. This is actually not that surprising; if CHP ever had a connection with the public and acted accordingly to their demands and expectations, we would be living in a completely different Turkey. The CHP is annoyed by military operations and people praising martyrs. In the recent past, the CHP had organized meetings without any Turkish flags and promised autonomy.

In this respect, CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu left nothing for people to trust in him. Meanwhile, the CHP has appointed İnce as their presidential candidate despite not allowing him to become the CHP chair for four times.

CHP deputies attended funerals of militants in the past years; moreover, the party believes the YPG [People's Protection Units] and PYD [Democratic Union Party] aren't terrorist organizations. The CHP, the Good Party (İP) and Felicity Party (SP) are all calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former chair and the current presidential candidate of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Every day, one of the chairs talks about it. This will be also evaluated by the public.

DS: What are your thoughts on the performances of the Good Party and the Felicity Party?

SD: I don't believe they aim to serve the people. Our research reveals that the Good Party is being supported by a very specific group that casts suspicion upon the party's intentions. We have serious suspicions regarding the party's conception; it may be founded under the guidance of FETÖ. For this reason, it's not necessary to talk much about their performance.

DS: There is a little time left until elections. Will the public see President Erdoğan and MHP Chair Bahçeli together in the same meeting?

SD: I don't have any information regarding this matter.

DS: Do you have specific forecast regarding the vote share of the People's Alliance?

SD: I will only express that I believe our alliance will win the presidential election in the first round and strongly so.

DS: What is the reason behind MHP Chair Bahçeli's recent insistence on a general amnesty?

SD: During Bahçeli's prime ministry in 2001, Operation "Return to Life" took place. There were attempts at riots initiated by extreme leftists in various prisons. Our chair has expressed his concern that a similar operation may take place today. Moreover, he wanted the general amnesty to be a gesture of the People's Alliance while transitioning into a new era. Of course, we can't implement the general amnesty; it's more of a proposition to the government. Yet, we'll stand behind our proposition.

DS: What will be MHP's foreign policy after the elections?

SD: Since its conception, the MHP has always prioritized Turkey's rights and interests; this will continue to be our main interest. We aim to be on good terms with all of our neighbors while simultaneously protecting our national interests. Moreover, we'll ensure national security. On a larger scope, we desire a world order in which all the facilities and resources of the world are shared fairly.

​*Nur Özkan Erbay / Daily Sabah

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