Erdogan Wins Critical Support of Ally for Local Elections

(Bloomberg) -- A key ally of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his nationalist party won’t field candidates for mayors in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara in support of the ruling AK Party in local elections scheduled for March.

“We will fully support whoever AK Party’s candidates are in those three big cities,” MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said in Antalya on Saturday. The MHP will field its own candidates in the rest of the country, he said.

Bahceli’s support is critical for Erdogan’s party, which is struggling to extend its record of victories in Istanbul and Ankara local elections that began in 1994. Bahceli a month ago said the partnership wouldn’t hold for the local vote, which raised the prospect of renewed political turbulence that could threaten a nascent recovery in the nation’s assets. Bahceli changed his mind after a meeting with Erdogan earlier this week.

The latest decision was taken for the sake of Turkish stability and without any “secret bargaining,” Bahceli said, in reference to his grievances over Erdogan’s refusal to heed his party’s calls for an amnesty for tens of thousands of prisoners.

“We can’t tolerate the seizure of municipal positions by pro-Kurdish HDP” as part of a possible alliance with the main CHP opposition party in Istanbul to Izmir, Bahceli said. Both the MHP and AKP parties consider the HDP as the political wing of the PKK rebel group that has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast for decades.

Erdogan vowed to defeat the HDP and its supporters in the upcoming elections and expressed his gratitude to Bahceli. He also reaffirmed his party’s commitment to the partnership with the nationalist party, which is providing much-needed support for the AKP to pass legislation in parliament.

While Erdogan on Saturday revealed 40 mayor candidates for his party in the upcoming elections, he delayed the announcement of candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir until a later date.

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