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Far-right ally says Erdoğan should not retire from politics

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The leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has voiced objections to the prospect of Erdoğan’s retirement from politics, saying that the Turkish nation needs him.

Devlet Bahçeli, who spoke at a party congress in Ankara on Sunday at which he was again elected the leader of the MHP, commented on recent remarks by Erdoğan, who said the local elections on March 31 would be his “last” in line with the law.

“You can’t leave. You can’t leave the Turkish nation alone. We, as the Public Alliance, are with you. We want to see you as the savior-leader of the new century,” Bahçeli said, appealing to Erdoğan.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MHP, along with other small parties, are part of the Public Alliance against a group of opposition parties, which formed the Nation’s Alliance but dissolved it due to disagreement and resentment following the elections in May, when Erdoğan secured yet another term in office.

Erdoğan sparked a debate about his potential departure from politics earlier this month, referring to the law as the reason.

“I’m working non-stop. We’re running around now because for me, it’s the final one,” said the president, referring to the March 31 elections.

“With the authority that the law confers on me, this election is my last,” he added.

Yet, there were comments that he might consider running for the presidency again if the law were to be amended.

According to Turkey’s constitution, the president can only be elected for a renewable five-year term if the elections are held as scheduled. Erdoğan was first elected president under a parliamentary system in 2014.

Questions arose about whether Erdoğan could run for a third term due to a change in the system of governance in 2017, with some claiming he was not legally eligible to compete in the May election because he had already served two terms, with another one starting in 2018, and could not run for a third.

A constitutional referendum in 2017 turned the country into an executive presidency and thus expanded Erdoğan’s influence. Turkey’s election authority did not count Erdoğan’s term, starting in 2014, since it was under the parliamentary system.

Meanwhile, journalist Can Ataklı, who writes for the anti-government Korkusuz newspaper, wrote in his column on Monday that Bahçeli’s taking such a clear stance against Erdoğan’s departure from politics shows that parliament will call early elections in 2027 to make Erdoğan’s candidacy possible again.

He said the button to keep Erdoğan as president for one more term has been pressed by Bahçeli and the path before Erdoğan’s presidential candidacy for the fourth time will be opened.

Last week Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç said it is legally possible for Erdoğan to run for the presidency again if parliament calls early elections.

Turkey’s next presidential election is scheduled for 2028.

The 600-seat Turkish parliament can call early elections only if three-fifths of the lawmakers — 360 MPs — support it.

Erdoğan’s AKP has 264 seats in parliament, while the MHP has 49, which make a total of 313, short of the required number of lawmakers to call early elections.

Erdoğan, however, is known as a master of establishing political alliances, even with his former political rivals, and can easily come up with the missing number of lawmakers to make holding early elections legally possible.

The 70-year-old Erdoğan has been at the helm of Turkish politics since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president.

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