ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's opposition Nationalist Movement Party chairman has said his party would do "whatever needs to be done" if the country's fight against terrorism "slackens" after the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's upcoming extraordinary congress.
In remarks made at his party's group meeting in the parliament in Ankara Tuesday, Devlet Bahceli said his party would "give any extra hand in the parliament, as an understanding of a national duty" if any such situation arose.
"To popularize democracy, there is always a need of a strong opposition party," he said. "The opposition party should throw itself into the fire and go into the darkness without fear if need be. We are like this and here to do this."
On May 5, Turkish Prime Minister and AK Party Chairman Ahmet Davutoglu announced that he would step down after his party's extraordinary congress on May 22.
Bahceli said Davutoglu's decision to vacate the prime ministerial seat was "without giving a reason” and, therefore, this decision could not be discussed without mentioning the proposed transition towards a presidential system.
Turkey is currently seeking to replace its constitution, which was written after a military coup in the 1980s. However, a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue broke up in February amid a row over replacing the current system with a presidential structure.
Bahceli also wished a successful and happy life to Davutoglu, adding that "exchange of good and bad words happen due to the nature of politics."
The MHP leader also spoke about the possibility of an early general election, saying that such a situation "would be murdering democracy in Turkey."
"They say [dissidents within his party] that they are waiting for MHP in the early general election. They say that if the current MHP management leaves, then the votes of MHP would go up to 25 percent," Bahceli said. "This miserable lying chorus is trying to set up bombs around our party. We are afraid of nothing."
About the possibility of the MHP holding its own extraordinary congress on May 15, he said: "We respect what the Supreme Court has to say [on this].”
Dissidents within the MHP have approached the courts to force an extraordinary congress in wake of MHP's poor electoral showing last year.
A special committee appointed by the Ankara Civil Court of Peace announced May 15 as the date for the MHP to hold an extraordinary congress.
A total of 543 delegates had sent a petition to party headquarters demanding an extraordinary congress. The petition filed at an Ankara court in February also criticized the MHP leadership for not calling its extraordinary general convention.
However, MHP Deputy Chairman Oktay Ozturk said on April 29 that an Ankara court had decided to halt the party's extraordinary congress as a precautionary measure.
The row follows the party's poor showing in last November’s general election. The MHP lost its position as the third-largest group in the parliament, falling behind the Peoples’ Democratic Party.
Bahceli, who has led the MHP since 1997, has refused the push for an extraordinary congress.
Party bylaws ban the election of a new leader at extraordinary congresses. Party dissidents hope to change such bylaws at the proposed extraordinary congress, which would eventually pave the way for electing a new party leader.