The scenario before the May 14 elections is repeating itself. Tensions are escalating again between the Yeniden Refah Partisi (YRP), (Renewal Welfare Party or Welfare Party Again) and the AKP( Justice and Development Party). Planned meetings are being canceled again, and some YRP members are lining up their harshest criticisms.
The relations are particularly sour due to their ‘no’ vote on the 2024 budget; compounded by the salvoes of Deputy Chairman Doğan Aydal, anger is rising in the ruling party. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who never really liked Fatih Erbakan, had to cooperate out of necessity. Now, he believes this partnership benefits YRP and feels slightly betrayed.
YRP is maximizing the benefits of this cooperation; they achieved an impossible feat under normal circumstances by winning five seats in the last elections. People wanting to vote for the Erbakan name but hesitant due to ‘wasted vote’ concerns now comfortably cast their ballots.
More importantly, they caught Erdoğan’s ‘Achilles’ heel’. They became his interlocutors and are creating agendas using the platform he offered. Their positive contribution to the coalition in terms of vote ratio is minimal. However, their potential negative impact is frightening the AKP. Erbakan has become an actor with a low probability of contributing to a win but a high probability of causing a loss.
Considering Ekrem İmamoğlu won the canceled first election by a 13,000 vote margin, YRP’s bargaining power is evident. Besides not voting, they could also lead to doubts and changes of opinion within the AKP voter base. They possess the means to reach the ruling party’s electorate. Beyond sharing the same environment, they speak the same language.
Even though Suat Kılıç says, “Their views do not bind our party,” Doğan Aydal’s criticisms regarding Murat Kurum and the candidate selection process made an impact. “They didn’t share the decision to nominate Murat Kurum with us. He was chosen because he’s backed by Emine Erdoğan. Does anyone remember any of his accomplishments besides the 25-cent bag? We weren’t established to win elections for AKP!” These words resonated within the AKP base.
There’s no confirmation yet on the news that Chairman Erbakan was displeased with these statements. On the contrary, Aydal played the role of the ‘bad cop’ in the presidential election negotiations, stating: “We said it was a temporary cooperation. We don’t have to win the election for Tayyip Bey. We are a strong party with ideals and goals. They probably saw us as a 1.5-2% party and offered three to five parliamentary seats. However, they had offered Mr. Erbakan the sports ministry and two parliamentary seats in the 2018 elections, which he had declined.”
The Palestine trump card… The cries of Palestinian women and children who lost their lives in Israeli attacks in Gaza are reaching AKP shores. We saw live how Hasan Bitmez of the Saadet Party’s heart attack-inducing parliament speech panicked AKP members, including Özlem Zengin. It won’t be easy to retain voters when they start hearing similar things from YRP members. Neither Cüppeli Ahmet’s defense, “If we mess with Israel, we’ll ruin the economy and starve!” nor the ministers’ distorted “Trade decreased!” lies will work.
Even though it seemed difficult before May 14, Erdoğan, compelled to host Fatih Erbakan at the Palace and give in to their demands, has little choice. He must silence Yeniden Refah. It remains to be seen what he will offer as ‘hush money’.