Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has reacted against ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş after the latter dismissed Bahçeli's call for the closure of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).
“Those who are against the closure of the HDP, including .... and some executives in the AKP, should answer this: Is it reasonable that the Turkish state feeds betrayal and covers the costs of bullets, bombs and mines?” Bahçeli said in a statement released on Twitter on Dec. 16, in a not-so-veiled reference to Kurtulmuş.
Bahçeli last week called on the government to close the HDP, accusing the party of “sheltering terror.” “This bed of terror and separatism must be closed,” Bahçeli tweeted on Dec. 11.
In response to Bahçeli's comments, Kurtulmuş said on Dec. 15 that party closures in Turkey had never seen “a positive outcome.” He once again accused the HDP of not distancing itself from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government accuse the HDP of having links to the PKK, leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links.
In the face of Kurtulmuş's comments, Bahçeli once again repeated his call for the HDP's closure. “The HDP should be closed in a way that it cannnot reopen. Authorization should not be given for the foundation of a party that takes ethnical division and terror as a reference,” Bahçeli said, calling for changes in the Constitution and the Law on Political Parties “if necessary” for this move.
Pro-Kurdish parties have been targeted on allegations of separatism and terrorism ever since their foundation. The HDP is the latest in the years-long state tradition.
Dozens of high-level HDP officials are behind bars on charges related to the PKK, including its former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, and the party faces immense pressure despite it being the third-largest party in parliament after the AKP and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
The attempts to criminalize the HDP increased after Erdoğan's AKP formed an alliance with the MHP and started to follow its nationalist agenda.
Despite its influence on the government, the MHP's votes are below 10 percent - lower than the HDP - according to recent polls.
While it's common for the government and nationalists to call on the HDP to "distance itself from the PKK," the opposition has recently called on the ruling bloc to distance itself from the mafia after Bahçeli's support for one of them.