Turkey’s far-right YRP becomes third party nationwide after campaign on poverty, Palestine

In local elections, Turkey’s Islamist far-right New Welfare Party (YRP) became the third party nationwide with 6.19 percent of the votes according to the unofficial results. It won 60 municipalities in total including one metropolitan, one provincial, 39 district, and 19 town municipalities

Fatih Erbakan recrates (R) his father Necmettin Erbakan's famous pose (L) after 30 years. In the old photo, President Erdoğan stands right beside Necmettin Erbakan.

Duvar English

In the March 31 local elections, the Islamist far-right New Welfare Party (YRP) unprecedentedly consolidated more voters and became the third party nationwide after garnering 6.19 percent of votes.

YRP has left the ruling People’s Alliance after a row with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the strategy of the local elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indirectly targeted the party in several speeches.

YRP emerged from the same political Islamist lineage as the AKP, known as National Vision (Milli Görüş in Turkish). Its leader, Fatih Erbakan, is the son of one of Turkey's most prominent figures in political Islam, Necmettin Erbakan, who was Erdoğan’s mentor. 

YRP ran a misogynistic and anti-LGBTI+ campaign and obtained “moral municipalism” as their local election campaign slogan. 

One of the YRP's election posters stated, “If there is no morality, there is LGBT. We will drive deviant organizations out of our city. Moral municipalism is discernment."

As a result, it won the southeastern Şanlıurfa Metropolitan Municipality, central Anatolian Yozgat Provincial Municipality along with 39 districts and 19 town municipalities. 

In the 2023 general elections, YRP entered the parliamentary elections with the ruling alliance, came in sixth place with 2.8 percent of the votes, and managed to get five deputies into the Parliament.

The party has also built a propaganda campaign on poverty and Palestine, particularly after its rift with AKP. 

Speaking at the southern Hatay province during a local election rally, Erbakan on March 28 said, “If the government announces the end of trade with Israel, the closure of the Kürecik Radar Station in Malatya, which was established to protect Israel, and announces that it is increasing the (lowest) pension to 20,000 liras, we are ready to withdraw our candidate for Istanbul.”

YRP has tried to grab the attention of the Islamist voters using the AKP’s ambiguous position on practical sanctions against Israel over its war on Gaza and reports on the Turkish government’s continuing trade with Israel.

Also, Erbakan has used the deepening poverty in Turkish society as one of the pillars of YRP’s election campaign particularly focusing on pensioners whom Erdoğan has failed to satisfy.

YRP became the third party in Istanbul with 226,438 votes (2.61%), third in the capital Ankara with 103,661 votes (3.13%), and sixth in Aegean İzmir with 24,428 votes (0.93%). 

In his speech during election night, YRP leader Erbakan stated, "These results are the resurgence of National Vision, the footsteps of New Welfare's march to power."

Known for expressing conspiracy theories, Erbakan previously argued that COVID-19 vaccine recipients could birth babies that are half monkey, or have birth defects like three ears or five eyes.

He also claimed that learning about the theory of evolution makes people “Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members” and “communists.”

Adopting classical arguments of American and European far-right parties, Erbakan also argued that the climate change “is exaggerated and distorted” and that drought was caused by cold weather, not hot, because “it does not rain at -20°C.”

Other far-right parties

The government’s main ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 4.99 percent of the votes nationwide and became the fifth party. It won 186 municipalities, including eight provincial, 122 district, and 56 town municipalities.

The government ally ultra-nationalist Grand Unity Party (BBP) also won 0.44 percent of the votes nationwide and won Sivas Provincial Municipality after garnering 43.31 of the votes in the central Anatolian province along with 14 districts and six town municipalities.

The anti-immigrant far-right Victory Party garnered 1.74 percent nationwide and could not win any municipal elections. 

The government’s radical Islamist ally Just Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) -reportedly affiliated with Hizbullah- garnered 0.55 percent of the votes nationwide and did not win any municipal elections. 

In eastern Batman province, the stronghold of HÜDA-PAR, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party’s woman candidate Gülüstan Sönük won the race after garnering 64.52 of the votes against HÜDA-PAR that merely received 15,69 percent.

Thousands gathered and chanted “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi (Women, Life, Freedom in Kurdish)” to celebrate Sönük’s victory against the misogynist HÜDA-PAR candidate.