Six Turkish opposition politicians have resigned over a sex tape scandal that could have far-reaching consequences for the country’s parliamentary elections on June 12.
The six, all leading members of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), quit on Saturday after a website broadcast secretly filmed videos, purportedly showing senior figures having sex in a house used by party members for extramarital affairs.
Four senior members of the hardline group had already resigned earlier this month over similar videos, throwing the party’s electoral prospects into doubt.
The state-run Anatolian news agency said deputy chairmen Osman Cakir, Umit Safak and Mehmet Ekici, along with general secretary Cihan Pacaci and his deputy Mehmet Taytak had resigned their party membership and candidacies to be members of parliament.
Deniz Bolukbasi, another deputy chairman who also resigned, alleged he was the victim of a politically motivated trap.
“I am resigning to spare my party the damage such allegations might cause,” he said.
A group calling itself “Different Nationalists” claims to have released the videos, sparking accusations from the MHP that supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, were trying to undermine the party.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has denied the allegation and Turkish authorities have moved to block access to the videos.
“It is up to the party to deal with its internal affairs,” Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minister, said on NTV television.
“As unethical as they may be, I do not believe releasing those videos is correct behaviour, judging from a humanitarian perspective.”
Different Nationalists had threatened to broadcast further compromising video recordings if Devlet Bahceli, the MHP leader, did not resign by a deadline of May 18. He has not resigned.
Surveys show the party is hovering around a 10 per cent support threshold designed to exclude smaller parties from parliament.
Turkey analyst Birol Baskan told Al Jazeera that the latest resignations would make it difficult for the MHP to get into parliament.
“The party is extremely demoralised and has lost its focus on the real issues that the voters want to hear about,” Baskan said.
Bahceli had committed a tactical mistake by accusing a religious leader, Fethullah Gulen, of conspiring against the MHP, alienating conservative voters, Baskan added.
If the MHP fails to pass the 10 per cent barrier, its votes would be redistributed among parties represented in parliament, handing even more power to Erdogan’s ruling party.
The ruling party appears to be easily heading towards a third term in office, but it is aiming for an overwhelming majority that would allow it to rewrite Turkey’s constitution.