Police storm building, try to prevent Turkish nationalist conference against constitutional reform

Meral Aksener, MHP, Constitutional reform
Former MHP leadership candidate and deputy Meral Aksener speaks through a megaphone in Canakkale after electricity was turned off

A conference organised by dissidents within Turkey’s pan-Turkic Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was stormed by police on Saturday.

The conference, organised by supporters of Meral Aksener – a former MHP deputy who was evicted from the party after running for the leadership – was scheduled to be held at the Kolin Hotel to gain support for the “no campaign” in the upcoming constitutional referendum.

According to reports the Kolin Hotel board, which is one of the partners in the government’s ‘third Istanbul airport’ project, tried to cancel the meeting in Turkey’s northwestern city Canakkale through its CEO, who asked the MHP delegation to revoke the agreement on Friday night.

However the delegation refused to cancel the conference, upon which the lights and doors of the hall were closed by hotel officials and people were forced after police stormed the building.

After pressure from Meral Aksener and her supporters, people were allowed to enter the hall again but the electricity was not turned on, leading Aksener to make her speech through a megaphone under the glare of audience’s mobile phone torches.

The former MHP deputy tweeted about the incident saying: “They are trying to stop our meeting for which we have permission by turning off the electricity. They will not be able to stop our democratic struggle.”

A committee calling themselves “Turkish nationalists say no,” was formed by MHP deputies Meral Aksener, Sinan Ogan, Koray Aydin and Umit Ozdag in January.

The MHP leadership, headed by Devlet Bahceli, voted to approve the constitutional reform package in parliament and have said they will vote ‘yes’ in the constitutional referendum to be held on 16 April. Several polls suggest that the majority of the nationalist party’s grassroots supporters are against the reform proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The latest incident is also being reported as an example of the suppression faced by groups voting against the constitutional reform.