A fifth Turkish political party?

Gossip about a fifth party in the next Turkish parliament is still just gossip – for the moment

There’s an unusual degree of chatter in the Turkish press prompted by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s claim that several MPs will abandon the AK Party after next week’s election to form a fifth political party.

If the existing four parties after the next election reach political deadlock and cannot agree to form a government, it is entirely possible that a group will break away from the AK Party to form a fifth party in parliament. At least, according to Mr Bahçeli. There are many examples of this in the past, he said.

The words “fifth party” caused a stir in Ankara gossip circles desperate for a release from the bland mediocrity that is Turkey’s political scene today.

AK critics in concert

The gossipers suggest three senior founding figures of the AK Party are involved in a plot: Abdullah Gül, Turkey’s former president; along with former deputy prime ministers Bülent Arınç and Abdüllatif Şener.

That’s notionally possible, as all three are known to be uncomfortable with the state of AK under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Mr Gül has long been touted as Mr Erdoğan’s greatest rival, although he has constituent to discuss the issue. Mr Arınç is far more outspoken, having been embroiled in separate public spats with both the president and the mayor of Ankara.

Mr Şener, meanwhile, was among the first to express concerns over the AK Party’s politics. He stepped down seven years ago in seemingly amicable circumstances after serving a single term as deputy prime minister, and went on to set up a short-lived, indistinct centre-right rival.

The trio are reported to be in cahoots with Meral Akşener, just about the only recognisable woman in the MHP, who was unexpectedly deselected by Mr Bahçeli last month. That suggests Party Five could get a few nationalists to defect too.

Notionally, they could be plotting something. A cursory look at the state of the parties in the 1990s on our political road map is enough to show that it’s certainly happened many time before.

Easier said than done

So the heavyweights for the so-called Party Five are certainly in place – but none are parliamentary candidates in next week’s election.

And enticing newly-elected MPs to a new centre-right outfit is easier said than done. This election’s AK Party candidate list contains more loyalists than ever before, while the MHP has a notoriously iron grip over its MPs and defections are quite rare.

Of course, all of this is speculation until we have a new parliament and the parties have at least made a symbolic effort at trying to cobble together a government.

But opinion polls consistently suggest November’s election result will differ only very slightly from June. Intransigence and the prospect of a third successive parliamentary election could force some minds to think very differently.

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