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Nationalist opposition in Turkey continues to bleed members after May election defeat

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Turkey’s nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party faces a growing exodus of members, highlighting internal fractures and challenges within the party in the aftermath of its May election defeat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

İYİ had previously broken away from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an election ally of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener, who was a member of the MHP for years, parted ways with the MHP due to disagreements and established her own party in October 2017.

The İYİ Party set up an alliance with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) before the 2018 general election, which also continued for this year’s elections in May, when the opposition bloc suffered a significant defeat.

Among the İYİ members who recently left the party are founding member Durmuş Yılmaz, General Administrative Board member Bahadır Erdem, Ankara MP Adnan Beker and İstanbul MP Cihan Paçacı.

When announcing his resignation on Nov. 10, Erdem said the party’s decision to enter the local elections in March 2024 with its own candidates risked losing İstanbul and Ankara, creating new opportunities for the ruling AKP to win.

During this week’s group meeting, Akşener listed the reasons for İYİ fielding its own candidates in the local elections. Additionally, mayoral candidates were announced for the İstanbul districts of Maltepe, Arnavutköy and Güngören. While indicating her determination that the party nominate its own candidates, Akşener also signaled that metropolitan cities’ turn will come, too.

The unrest within the party began in early March, when Akşener broke with the opposition alliance due to its plans to nominate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, then-leader of the CHP, as a presidential candidate against Erdoğan. The İYİ leader returned to the bloc a few days later.

The pressure exerted on İYİ comes not only from the opposition but also from the AKP government.

Earlier this month, lawmaker Nebi Hatipoğlu joined the ruling AKP days after resigning from the İYİ Party, saying he had been experiencing “profound differences of opinion” with the party since the general election in May.

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