Turkish nationalist leader ends alliance with AKP

Devlet Bahceli says there will be no alliance with ruling party for March 31 local elections, which was seen as aiding Erdogan's victory in June.

ANKARA - The leader of Turkey's main nationalist faction on Tuesday announced there would be no alliance with the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in local elections next year after a dispute over a proposed amnesty law.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli teamed up with Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) for an alliance in June's parliamentary and presidential elections, a move widely seen as aiding the president's victory.

But speaking to MHP members and lawmakers in parliament, Bahceli announced there will be no such alliance for the March 31 local elections which will determine city mayors across the country, notably in Ankara and Istanbul.

The rupture comes after the MHP encouraged the AKP to agree to a mass amnesty -- mostly for common criminals but also some mobsters -- an idea received with little enthusiasm in the ruling party.

"No alliance can survive if one party is rejected and forced to step back," Bahceli said. "There is no meaning in extending this process."

"We no longer have any expectation or intention for an alliance in the local elections," he added.

The announcement stunned Turkey politics watchers, minutes before Erdogan was due to deliver a crucial speech about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

'Go our own way'

The Turkish lira plunged at one point over 3.5 percent in value against the US dollar as investors feared fresh political instability. It later trimmed its losses to trade at 5.78 to the dollar, a loss in value of 2.0 percent

Bahceli later clarified to journalists in parliament that the so called People's Alliance between the parties remained in place, "but there is no alliance for the local elections", meaning the MHP will not vote against the AKP in parliament but will field competing candidates in the local elections.

During his speech, Erdogan appeared to seek to reassure AKP members and lawmakers.

"We only have one thing to say, since they say 'let's go our way' in local elections, we say 'everyone go their own way!'"

Erdogan downplayed any fears of a spat after a journalist asked him after his speech if the alliance was broken, he said: "We want the alliance... to continue."

While the two parties teamed up for the formal alliance in the elections, the MHP has no ministers in the cabinet and is not part of a formal alliance in parliament with the AKP, which is just short of an overall majority.

Nevertheless Bahceli's move could upset the strategy of the ruling party to hoover up nationalist votes in order to prevent them going to the other nationalist party -- the Good Party -- of former cabinet minister Meral Aksener who openly opposes Erdogan.