Turkey’s new political parties face violence and a media blackout - FT

New challenger parties from within Turkey’s religious-conservative political tradition face violence and a media blackout, the Financial Times said on Thursday.

Last month, armed assailants attacked Selçuk Özdağ, a former member of parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who recently joined the newly formed Future Party (GP). Suspects detained by police were subsequently released.

Özdağ told the FT that he blamed the AKP’s coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), for the assault. “Today’s government is desperate,” he said. “These people are frightened of democracy, of transparency, of being held to account.”

The MHP is closely associated with the Grey Wolves, a street movement that rose to prominence during political violence between far-left and far-right groups in the 1970s, and has recently been accused of carrying out attacks in Europe.

The GP, headed by former AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, is not the only new party to have emerged from internal government tensions in recent years.

The Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) was launched last March by Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister and close economic advisor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

But Mehmet Emin Ekmen, one of DEVA’s vice-presidents, told the FT his party was being ignored by the pro-government outlets that dominate Turkey’s media. “They talk as if there is no party called Deva and no person called Ali Babacan,” he said.

Both new parties have struggled in the polls. But analysts say even a small shift in the AKP’s voter base could have a disproportionate impact. “Will (Davutoğlu) get 10-15 per cent? Probably not. But he could get a solid 5 per cent,” Selim Sazak, a visiting researcher at Bilkent University, told the FT. “That could make him a kingmaker.”