Turkey's upcoming parliamentary elections continue to take a turn towards the tawdry and downright bizarre, with the escalation of an ongoing scandal that's engulfing the right-wing, ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The party, the third largest in the parliament, has been hit with the release online of footage showing a number of its senior members in compromising situations with young women. Four MHP members have already resigned, but the mysterious website where the footage has been posted (www.farkliulkuculer.com) has issued a statement saying it will release footage implicating six more party members unless the MHP's embattled leader, Develt Bahceli resigns today.
Bahceli and the MHP, in response, have accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of orchestrating the campaign and even say they have proof that a member of the governing party is financing farkliulkuculer.com. More details here (Hurriyet Daily News) and here (Today's Zaman).
As I wrote in a recent post on Eurasianet's Turko-file blog, sex scandals and hidden-camera footage are turning out to have quite an impact on the course of Turkish politics these days. The fact that the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) is at all competitive in these upcoming elections has everything to do with the fact that the party was able to dump it's ineffective long-time leader, Deniz Baykal, after he himself was implicated last year in a secret-camera sex scandal.
In the case of the MHP, the sex tapes and how they may impact the party's fortunes are also very significant, since polls show the party is fighting to get enough votes to make it above Turkey's 10 percent threshold for getting into parliament. The MHP failing to pass the threshold could be very significant, as Henri Barkey explained in a recent analysis:
Should MHP fail to pass the barrier, the AKP—given Turkey’s electoral rules—would almost certainly receive a disproportionate share of seats that otherwise would have gone to MHP. This outcome is what Erdogan would love to see and has strived to ensure. After all, every seat his party wins brings him closer to the 367 seats needed to alter the constitution with relative ease.
As I mentioned in my Eurasianet post, the MHP affair again brings up serious questions about the pervasive use of illegally obtained material (phone taps, video, etc.) in Turkish politics and the lack of decent legal mechanisms for stopping it. For more on that, take a look at this story I filed last year from Istanbul's phone tappers' bazaar.
(photo: MHP leader Devlet Bahceli)