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Turkey is about to hold its parliamentary elections on June 12 but the campaign period has been a grotesque nightmare for the far-rights in the country. The main issue has been a group called Farklı Ülkücülük (English: ‘Different Idealism’) which started posting explicit sex videos online last month, showing senior members of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) engaging in sexual acts with women – in one case a prostitute and in another example, a 16-year-old girl.
The scandal has forced ten members of the party, including front runners for the election, to resign. According to voanews.com, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli is accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of financially supporting the group behind the website but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the AKP has angrily denied the charges.
“We did what we could so far on this issue,” PM Erdogan told the press. “Bahceli is trying to blame the government for his internal problem.”
The explosive sex scandal is the latest in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign of unprecedented proportions. The Turkish political scene seems to have hit a new low as the media has been able to expose video surveillance and phone tapping of politicians, government officials and journalists. According to Danish daily Politiken, the previous leader of MHP resigned last year following a similar smear campaign.
The identity of the people behind the recent sex tapes is still undetermined. Across one of the videos, the group wrote a statement that urged the resignation of the entire opposition which some are taking as a sign that the group stands for highly loyal ultra-nationalists. Whether or not this is the case, the extremely bad publicity of the opposition is only beneficiary for the ruling party. Commentators have expressed their concern that if the election is determined on the scandalous campaign, the PM could end up with an absolute majority in parliament – meaning the AKP can legislate without gaining the support of other parties.
As a politician, it would be difficult for Erdogan not to take advantage of the embarrassing situation his opponents are in. More so, since the religious segments in the Turkish society is where the big vote is won. In an interview, the Turkish PM said about the nature of the case: “Those women were not their wives so why should it be a matter of their private lives?” He also referred to the MHP as a brothel in the same interview. Similarly, he stated that it goes against the Muslim Turkish society to call ‘questions of immoral actions’ a private matter.
The MHP has accused the Turkish media of bias but for the Erdogan-supporting parts of the press, a sex scandal of these proportions is hard to ignore. What defines the pro-AKP press is their unwillingness to differentiate between the sheep and the herd.
“Many are now asking how a party like the MHP, who can’t seem to get conservatism and nationalism straight, has become a party that doesn’t hesitate to violate these values,” wrote Fatma Disli Zabak, a Turkish commentator.
With under a week until the polls open, it is possible that more disclosures and resignations will come but so far, the damage seems done. The AKP is looking shinier than ever while the MHP is facing a serious challenge if they expect to regain the people’s trust.
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