Erdogan ally says Turkey's governing coalition strong despite critics


FILE PHOTO: Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), gestures as he attends his election rally in Ankara, Turkey June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan's nationalist ally pledged his loyalty to their government coalition on Tuesday and dismissed media speculation about cracks in the alliance amid a recent reform push as "incomprehensible dirty rumours".

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli's attack on government critics came after Erdogan vowed earlier this month a new era of judicial reforms, after years of growing criticism from opponents at home and allies abroad.

The MHP has attracted criticism from opposition parties in recent days while several newspaper reports have suggested there were problems in their alliance with Erdogan's AK Party (AKP).

In a speech to MHP lawmakers in parliament, Bahceli said "cowards, plotters and swindlers" were targeting the so-called People's Alliance between his party and the AKP.

"The People's Alliance is Turkey's only hope, its only guarantee against the world," he said. "Our relationship with our president is so consistent, balanced, uncalculating, unplanned, principled, and based on mutual respect that enemy heads cannot understand."

Bahceli also described as a "terror lover" a former top government figure who called last week for the release of two high-profile prisoners charged separately after a failed coup in 2016: a Kurdish political leader and a philanthropist.

Former deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc had called for the release of the two, Selahattin Demirtas and Osman Kavala, after Erdogan last week promised judicial reforms would come in the new year.

The comments by Arinc - a member of the Presidency's High Advisory Board - had raised expectations that Erdogan's AKP was intent on burnishing its approach to the rule of law, which opposition parties and Western allies say is influenced by politics.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is also expected to toughen bilateral ties with Turkey.

But Bahceli on Tuesday slammed the comments by Arinc, after Erdogan himself dismissed them on Sunday.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alexandra Hudson)

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