Erdoğan’s MHP allies will influence foreign policy - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a mandate for one-man rule under deeply unfair circumstances in last Sunday’s elections, but will now have to contend with serious economic challenges while also having to satisfy his far-right nationalist allies, analyst Max Hoffman wrote for the Progressive Post.

Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were the clear winners in last Sunday’s elections, after a contest that could hardly be deemed fair due to government repression of opposition media and political circles under the ongoing state of emergency.

However, a surprise resurgence in popularity of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AKP’s alliance partners in the election, means many of Erdoğan’s policies are likely to be defined by the country’s rising trend of nationalism.

This includes policies regarding Turkey’s millions of Syrian refugees, who Erdoğan welcomed into the country after the beginning of the conflict in 2011 and many of whom are likely to remain. An influential poll earlier this year showed that 79 percent of Turks had negative views of the Syrians, one possible factor in the rise of nationalism, said Hoffman.

The alliance with the MHP will also likely preclude any rapprochement with the Kurdish political movement at home or abroad, said Hoffman, since that party will insist on taking a hard line to Kurdish groups.

“This nationalist coalition is held together by two main issues: support for a strong state to fight against perceived Kurdish separatism and terrorist threats, and aggressive, unilateral Turkish regional and foreign policy linked to that anti-Kurdish line,” said Hoffman.

The rising tide of nationalism also makes conciliatory moves towards the West unlikely, after years of mounting tensions, according to the analyst.

“Western governments should therefore expect more of the same from Turkey, with continued adventurism in Syria alongside virulently anti-American and anti-European rhetoric,” he said.

This may, however, be tempered by the persistent downward trend in Turkey’s economy, which will make any moves that scare off investors unwise, Hoffman said.