MHP leader Bahçeli suggests Akşener not stepping down from İYİ Party leadership

Turkish gov’t ally MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has suggested Meral Akşener not stepping down from the opposition İYİ Party leadership as she announced. “Akşener should give up her decision and continue at the head of the party,” Bahçeli said. Akşener founded the İYİ Party in 2017 after leaving the MHP following a controversial party congress.

This file photo shows İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener (L) and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli (R)

Duvar English

Turkish government ally, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on April 10 commented on opposition İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener’s announcement of stepping down from the party leadership.

Speaking to the press after visiting the grave of the founder of the MHP, Alparslan Türkeş, Bahçeli said he wanted to share his thoughts on Akşener’s move.

“Today, a political party splinted from us is discussing an extraordinary congress on April 27. The Nationalist Movement Party has experienced such moves throughout its 55 years of political life. There have been divisions, but as a result, the MHP has managed to survive. Now everyone is trying to become a candidate (for the İYİ Party leadership). These are the most natural rights. However, multiple candidates can also lead to multiple divisions,” Bahçeli said.

İYİ Party is a splinter of the MHP, founded by Meral Akşener in 2017 after a controversial congress of the latter.

“I think that Ms. Meral Akşener should give up her decision and continue at the head of the party, and that other people who want to be candidates (for the leadership) should unite around her and Turkey,” Bahçeli added.

“I suggest that this political party, with which we have had relations in the past should decide without falling into such a game, without falling into such a provocation,” he concluded.

So far, four figures have announced their candidacies for the İYİ Party leadership.

İYİ Party was one of the important actors of the main opposition alliance in Turkey’s 2023 general elections. As a member of the Table of Six, the party got 43 deputies in the Parliament.

Following the alliance candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s defeat in the presidential elections, Akşener criticized the alliance system and vowed to enter local elections “freely” and “on its own.”

Akşener drew criticism for openly attacking former allies Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, calling them "cowards" for not running as presidential candidates for the 2023 elections instead of their party leader Kılıçdaroğlu. 

The decision caused outrage within party ranks and led to resignations by major figures who did not condone diverting the votes of the popular CHP mayors Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş.

In the March 2024 local elections, the İYİ Party won one provincial mayorship in the central Anatolian Nevşehir province, 23 district mayorships, and seven townships while garnering merely 3.77% of the votes.

After this defeat in the local elections, popular names within the party, such as Bilge Yılmaz, resigned from their party administration posts and called upon Akşener to follow suit.

Akşener first announced an extraordinary party congress following the local elections, then her stepping down from the party leadership.