Thursday, May 19, 2011

Caught on Tape...Sex Scandal Hits the MHP

As violence boils over in the southeast, the MHP, Turkey's third largest party, finds itself in the midst of a major sex scandal. For over a week, a mysterious website has been threatening to release sex tapes unless MHP leader Devlet Bahceli resigns. The MHP had until yesterday to meet the demands or have the website release the names of the party members who were caught on film.As promised, the website released names and tapes. Among the MHP members "caught" are three deputies, as well as the party's secretary-general.

In addition to video that has been released (nothing too explicit), there is audiotape. The tape is probably more damning than the video, featuring MHP politicians saying particularly dirty things to prostitutes. The tapes are getting wide play in the Turkish press.

Crazy things tend to happen in elections, but in Turkey the level of "craziness" is particularly high. Just one year ago former CHP leader Deniz Baykal was forced to resign his long-held top position in the chief opposition party following the release of a sex tape documenting what Baykal likely now considers a rather unfortunate affair with a female deputy within his party. The tape was released a few months before last year's constitutional referendum. Like the CHP scandal, the forces behind this new wave of videotapes is not known.

The MHP is accusing the ruling AKP of being behind the tapes. The footage was apparently taken in a house the party used for illicit liaisons with women who were most likely prostitutes. The house seems to have been under surveillance for a long period of time.

The MHP is hovering just above 10% in public opinion polls -- the same percentage the party needs to capture to be able to enter parliament.  The AKP has the most to gain should the MHP fall under the 10% mark since it would be rewarded the majority of the seats the MHP does not pick up according to Turkey's rather unhealthy D'Hondt system of proportional representation. For more on how this works, click here. At stake for the AKP is the ability to unilaterally put through a new constitution. The party needs 330 seats (3/5 of the parliament's 550 seats) to craft amendments to submit to popular referendum (as was the case with the recent constitutional changes passed Sept. 12) and 367 seats to push through amendments without the referendum requirement(2/3 of the 550 seats).

Last year, the ultra-nationalist MHP staked its political future on opposing the AKP's referendum and grand-standing on the Kurdish issue. Despite the government's failed "Kurdish opening" and the wave of PKK terrorist violence that was raging at the time, the MHP failed to get many of its voters out. Now that the AKP seems to have taken a more nationalist turn, Prime Minister Erdogan recently declaring "one nation, one language, one flag," the MHP is having difficulties winning over its usual constituency. The sex tape scandal will further injure its chances of remaining a major player in Turkish politics.

No comments: