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Ultra-nationalists shake Turkey's Erdogan by calling off alliance

During a speech on Tuesday, Erdogan repeats scepticism of prisoner amnesty called for by ultra-nationalist allies
Ultra-nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli (left) calls off alliance with Erdogan's AKP (Handout/MHP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP Party were shaken on Tuesday after the sudden announcement that their ultra-nationalist coalition partners were calling off an electoral alliance for coming local elections.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli withdrew his party's support for the AKP, the largest party in parliament, after disagreements about an MHP-proposed amnesty of prisoners. 

The announcement came shortly before Erdogan delivered a highly-anticipated speech revealing details of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul. 

"Undoubtedly, the state can pardon crimes against the country but crimes against the people, against individuals, cannot be pardoned," Erdogan said in parliament on Tuesday, following his speech on Khashoggi and in response to Bahceli's announcement.

The MHP has proposed a general amnesty that would free tens of thousands of prisoners aside from certain categories, including members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and those jailed for alleged links to the organisation of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of ordering the failed 2016 coup attempt. 

Critics say the law would aid ultra-nationalist criminal gangs that have the sympathies of MHP leader Devlet Bahceli.

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The seven-point proposal first needs to be discussed by the parliament's Justice Committee before it is voted on by lawmakers; a majority would make it law. The MHP says that the law would result in the release of an estimated 162,000 people.

Erdogan has openly criticised the proposal, insisting "we will not be remembered as a government that will pardon drug dealers" but upsetting Bahceli with his statement. 

Bahceli has mentioned in the past his desire to see nationalist Alattin Cakici released, despite being convicted as a Turkish mafia leader and for instigating the murder of his ex wife. 

Bahceli's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had backed Erdogan in June 2018 presidential elections. Both parties had previously expressed their intentions to continue the alliance in 2019 local elections.