Turkey’s opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) expelled four of its lawmakers on March 10, amid deepening rift within the party.
The MHP’s central disciplinary board ruled for the expulsions of Balıkesir lawmaker İsmail Ok, Kayseri lawmaker Yusuf Halaçoğlu, Isparta lawmaker Nuri Okutan and party member Sinan Oğan.
The party discussed the four’s disciplinary investigation files and unanimously voted for their expulsion in accordance with articles 11, 79 and 81 of the party’s by-law, according to a statement released by the central disciplinary board’s head, Halil Öztürk.
The three lawmakers and Oğan were expelled over “acting in a way that would harm the party unity in a serious way,” “acting without discipline against the party leader and the hierarchy,” “engaging in actions that would harm party activities and encouraging others to do so” and “misusing their rights of being members and lawmakers in order to harm the party.”
Halaçoğlu, Okutan, Ok and Oğan were referred to the disciplinary board on Jan. 13.
The split within the MHP started when dissidents criticized party leader Devlet Bahçeli, who has been the head of the party since 1997, over the party’s poor performance in the Nov. 1, 2015 election, in which it only won 11 percent of total votes and 40 seats in parliament.
Former MHP lawmakers Meral Akşener, Oğan, Koray Aydın and Ümit Özdağ called for an extraordinary congress and tried to run for MHP leadership last year but saw their attempt stymied by their party and the court system.
The split deepened after different stances were expressed within the party regarding the April 16 referendum, which will decide whether Turkey’s current parliamentary system should be replaced with an executive presidency.
While Bahçeli is campaigning for a “yes” vote, the dissidents said they were endorsing a “no” vote over worrying events unfolding in the country.
The tension within the party grew recently after Halaçoğlu and Özdağ were attacked for the second time in a week.
A group of 150 protesters had gathered in front of a hall in the southern province of Mersin, where Özdağ and Halaçoğlu were set to speak. Police tried to prevent the group from entering the hall, as they shouted pro-Bahçeli slogans.
“The real leader of the movement is Devlet Bahçeli,” the group chanted on March 9, demanding Özdağ to speak to them.
The group was dispersed after police said they would intervene.
Halaçoğlu and Özdağ were attacked in Mersin also on March 8, when a group entered a hall they were scheduled to speak in and smashed objects.
On March 4, a man shouting “The real leader of the movement is Devlet Bahçeli,” attacked Oğan and knocked down the rostrum he stood on in an event in Istanbul.
Bahçeli, meanwhile, commented on the attacks after the second attack took place against Özdağ and Halaçoğlu on March 9, saying that “there are games and theatres everywhere.”
“One of them makes someone attack the rostrum, one of them turns off the lights and the others make people sabotage their halls. There are games and theatres everywhere,” Bahçeli said on his Twitter account, adding that there was a “smear campaign” against the MHP.
“I warn you, pushing the limits of patience will not end well,” he added.