Nergis Demirkaya / DUVAR

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), rejected the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli’s proposal of a legislation to ban parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties last week. There is concern in some AKP circles that the banning of parliamentary transfers would effectively undermine rather than serve the ruling party. Some unnerved members of the ruling party fear that such a move might lead to a similar outcome like last year’s mayoral elections in Istanbul which brought defeat to the AKP.

Bahçeli’s proposal came after a statement from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), indicating that deputies could transfer when needed to the new opposition parties that were launched by former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – both co-founders and former key allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Bahçeli lashed out at Kılıçdaroğlu’s suggestion, calling it an “immoral offer that seeks to assassinate the national will.” 

While AKP Group Chairman Naci Bostancı announced that a legal study would be conducted regarding Bahçeli’s proposal, AKP Group Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan said that political morality could not be established through law.

Though clarifications from more prominent members of the AKP have yet to come regarding such a legal study, there is concern in some AKP ranks that the banning of parliamentary transfers would effectively undermine rather than serve the ruling party. Some bear in mind last year’s mayoral elections in Istanbul. Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) had cancelled the first round of those elections in March 2019, after significant pressure from Erdoğan. This led to a second round of elections in June 2019 which saw a resounding victory for Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. 

Other figures within the party have recalled how Erdoğan himself was prevented from being selected as a parliamentarian in 2002, which contributed to his ascent as the country’s prime minister. 

Party circles ultimately believe it is unlikely that Bahçeli’s proposal will be passed into a law. The prospect of an early election has also been dismissed as unnecessary given the country’s preoccupation with the coronavirus.