Ankara, Sep 19 () - The major player in Turkey’s interim government, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has made striking changes to its candidate list for the Nov. 1 snap election compared to its lineup for the June 7 parliamentary election, in which the AKP’s votes dropped almost 10 percent.
All political parties running in the Nov. 1 elections submitted their candidate lists to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) after the deadline closed at 5 p.m. on Sept. 18. While no major changes were seen in the lists of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the other three parties which gained seats in parliament in the June 7 vote, the AKP preferred to initiate large-scale changes.
Only hours before the deadline, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s change of his regular choice for Friday prayers raised eyebrows. Erdoğan, who usually goes to a mosque in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood, the location of his palace, opted this time to perform prayers at a mosque inside the Çankaya Palace, which has been used as the premises of the Prime Ministry since he moved to Beştepe. Because AKP leader and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was putting the final touches on the party’s lists at the same time, the move by Erdoğan, the founding leader of the AKP, was widely considered as a last-minute intervention into the lists.
Surprisingly, former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan was nominated by the AKP in Ankara, although he was not nominated for the highest decision-making body of the AKP during a congress held just a few days ago on Sept. 12. Likewise, Tuğrul Türkeş, a deputy prime minister in the interim government, will also run in Ankara as an AKP candidate.
Earlier on Sept. 18, Türkeş, who was expelled from the MHP after accepting an offer to join the country’s interim cabinet, resigned from the party after it became clear that the party would not nominate him.
Expectations that he might be nominated on the ticket of the major player in the interim government with just hours left until the deadline were eventually proven right.
The MHP also chose not to nominate former Deputy Parliament Speaker Meral Akşener – one of the party’s few woman deputies. Along with Türkeş, Davutoğlu also asked Akşener to take part in the interim government, but Akşener refused.
Shortly after the June 7 parliamentary election and in the run-up to the election of a new parliament speaker by the new assembly, Akşener was widely expected to be nominated for the post by her party.
However, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli aggressively dismissed such a prospect.
“I never like names being cited this way, and I would exclude the one whose name is cited. You should know that she will be excluded if you cite Meral Akşener so frequently,” Bahçeli said.
On the CHP front, there were no major changes, with one exception. The CHP’s outgoing deputy chair, Murat Özçelik, a former senior career diplomat, was not nominated by his party. The Party Assembly of the CHP in charge of approving candidate lists reportedly reacted against Özçelik’s reported remarks disclosing that he and his family had voted for the HDP in the June 7 parliamentary election in a bid to contribute to the party’s challenge to pass the 10 percent threshold required for representation in parliament. Özçelik announced as rapidly as of Sept. 18 that he had resigned from holding the deputy leadership of the party, despite having decided to continue politics as a member of the assembly in the CHP.
The HDP announced an election alliance with the Federation of Democratic Rights (DHF) and the Labor Party (EMEP), as well as the Freedom and Socialism Party (ÖSP).
HDP Istanbul deputy Levent Tüzel, a former leader of the EMEP, who refused to take part in the interim government based on consultations with his original party, was not included on the HDP’s candidate list.
Tüzel criticized the move, but said EMEP would continue to support the HDP.
The HDP, meanwhile, nominated Mustafa Sarısülük, the brother of Gezi protester Ethem Sarısülük, who was shot and killed by a police officer during the 2013 Gezi Park protests.