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HomeHeadlineMeral Akşener: From Nationalist Roots to Aspiring for Çiller's Unfulfilled Legacy

Meral Akşener: From Nationalist Roots to Aspiring for Çiller’s Unfulfilled Legacy

M. Ahmet Karabay

After visiting the Beştepe Palace and meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan, many things were said and written about Meral Akşener, the Founding General Chairwoman of the İYİ Party. It is particularly noteworthy how those who praised her yesterday have been vehemently criticizing her after this visit. But remember, Meral Akşener actually never diverged from targeting the AK Party.

The topic is politics, but I want to start by quoting an economist again. Former Treasury and Foreign Trade Undersecretary Mahfi Eğilmez responded to the question “Will the exchange rate remain stable until autumn?” by saying, “You have to be on alert as if a truck might suddenly turn into your path from around the corner.”

In Turkey, one must consider this possibility when following politics. It’s unpredictable where and when politicians in the public eye might change direction and head in the opposite way. The foundation of this lies in Erdoğan’s attempt to destroy all institutions in the country and establish a ‘One Man’ regime. Nearly all politicians assume they can’t function without aligning with Beştepe Palace.

Thus, their alliances either manifest as outright capitulation like BBP Chairman Mustafa Destici or by appearing extremely oppositional while cooperating. Just as Erdoğan serves the UK and the USA while appearing strongly anti-West. (You can watch Kerim Has’s ‘Kerim and the Kremlin’ discussion on this topic)

After Meral Akşener’s visit to Beştepe, the media often talked about the treachery of right-wing politicians. This is not incorrect. However, this country has also seen that those who have shown themselves as “leftist” for years are no different.

Korkmaz Karaca, who served in the CHP Executive Board and was a marriage witness for Deniz Baykal, made a similar journey to the Palace. When Baykal left the CHP chairmanship, he cried on live TV and then headed to Erdoğan’s side, a journey similar to that of prosecutor Savcı Sayan. Metin Feyzioğlu, who was portrayed as the “new leader of the left” by some circles during his tenure as President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, later entered into cooperation with the Palace and was appointed Ambassador to the TRNC.

MERAL AKŞENER HAS ALWAYS BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD

Meral Akşener was initially a nationalist-origin academic, then a politician within the same tradition. When she was about to join the DYP, she had sought permission from MHP’s founding leader Alparslan Türkeş. When she was going to join the AK Party on July 4, 2001, the leader from whom she would have sought permission was no longer alive.

During the establishment phase of the AK Party, she joined the new movement and held a press conference with Abdullah Gül and Abdüllatif Şener. When reminded of her nationalist background, Akşener replied, “Erdoğan is a friend I meet with his family!” Her joining was said to represent the “nationalist wing” in the formation of the party that would bring together four tendencies. Akşener later chose to leave the AK Party.

During my time writing political portraits, I had penned a brief biography of Meral Akşener titled “Leader Meral Akşener walking from Arsenal to the center-right.” This article was written without adding commentary. The first time I wrote about Akşener was on July 8, 2021, in an article exploring whether Erdoğan would replace the MHP with the İYİ Party. I had explained that Erdoğan urgently needed the MHP but had no trust in Devlet Bahçeli, thus he was seeking a spare.

Those who follow this column will remember well. During the days when the Table of Six was at its strongest and steps toward societal peace were being taken monthly, I wrote on September 9, 2022, “The weakest link of the Nation Alliance is at the breaking point.”

Without trying your patience further, let me make another reminder. These articles were written when Akşener appeared to be an unshakeable part of the Nation Alliance. During this period, even my close circle criticized me. My wife, from a somewhat feminist perspective, said that my warning articles were being unfair to Akşener.

Another figure who made clear warnings during that period was Aytunç Çıray, who had served in the İYİ Party for a time. Çıray went a step further and claimed that “Erdoğan was infiltrating the Nation Alliance through Meral Akşener.”

AKŞENER, ASPIRING FOR THE SEAT ÇİLLER COULD NOT FILL

During a time when Erdoğan’s prestige was rapidly eroding, he managed to have Tansu Çiller, a former prime minister and leader of the DYP, by his side in some way. Erdoğan, thinking that a former leader of the center-right could add a lot to him, soon realized that he could not get the benefit he expected from Çiller.

There were several reasons for this. First, Tansu Çiller never truly understood the people of this country, nor did she seem concerned to do so. Even during the period she took over from someone like Süleyman Demirel, who knew even the remote party members in Anatolia, it was no different. Çiller’s second handicap was her age, nearing 80 (78 years old). Another dead end for Çiller was that she approached power mainly to regulate the zoning statuses of her properties.

Meral Akşener, with a new hair color and image, was first seen in public at the funeral of Çiller’s husband, Özer Çiller. Assessing Akşener’s meeting with Erdoğan, Nevşin Mengü, from a woman’s perspective, commented, “If a woman changes her hair color, there must be something going on.”

‘ON HONOR AND INTEGRITY’ SHE MADE A PROMISE

Before last year’s Presidential Election, Akşener warned the youth, “If we lose this election, you won’t be able to breathe in this country.” But what Akşener said was not limited to this. During the days when it was rumored that she had secretly collaborated with the People’s Alliance after overturning the Table of Six, Akşener made a vow “on her honor and integrity”: “Even if it leads to death, I’m dishonored if I do not fight. Even if I am threatened or killed, or if I am the only one left, I am dishonored if I turn back from this fight. This is the promise and oath of a Muslim Turkish woman.”

What Akşener said about this was not limited. There were times when she stated she would never collaborate with the People’s Alliance, as if putting a gun to her head.

After the İYİ Party dwindled in the March 31 elections, Akşener took responsibility and resigned. Now Müsavat Dervişoğlu is at the helm, but all the deputies under the İYİ Party umbrella in the Parliament were chosen by Meral Akşener.

I hear that out of 36 deputies, about 25 remain loyal to Akşener. Knowing this, the resident of Beştepe Palace seeks Akşener’s support for the new constitution he wants to enact. This is how the invitation has been publicly presented.

Whether this cooperation will transform into a project for Akşener to take over the MHP after Bahçeli remains to be seen.

In short. MHP leader Bahçeli made a call to Akşener in December 2020, saying, “Come back home, end this suffering.” Around the same time, another call came from Erdoğan, who said, “It befits Meral Akşener to return to her home, to her roots.”

In her meeting with Erdoğan at Beştepe Palace, Akşener gave the message, “We have always been at home. Those who know, know.”

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