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Turkish Elections Marred by Sex Scandal

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), addresses an election rally in Kastamonu, Turkey, May 18, 2011 (file photo).
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), addresses an election rally in Kastamonu, Turkey, May 18, 2011 (file photo).

The Turkish general election has become known as the campaign of Sex, Lies and Videotape. The reaction to the release on the Internet of explicit sex videos appearing to implicate senior members of the National Action Party has been greeted with shock and anger.

Last month's release on the Internet by an unknown group called Farklı Ülkücülük (Different Idealism) of sex videos led to the resignation of 10 members of the party including six senior officials. National Action Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli accused the ruling AK party of political maneuvering.

The media is biased, Bahceli said. The judiciary is silent Bahceli added. The prosecutor works slowly and the ruling party is using this as political material, he said.

In a press conference the MHP claimed that the web page that released the videos was financially supported by an official of the ruling AK party. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan angrily denied the charges.

We did what we could so far on this issue, Erdogan said. Bahceli is trying to blame the government for his internal problems, he added.

Authorities have now blocked the web page showing the videos. But the controversies observers have marred the MHP campaign, along with expectation that further scandals could emerge at any time. The chief beneficiary of such misfortunes is ruling the AK party, says political Columnist Nuray Mert.

"This is the general image that these tapes why these be happened because the governing party is trying push nationalist party out of parliament," said Mert. "Nationalist votes for the nationalist party is diminishing and they are going to the governing party."

According to the polls, the National Action Party is hovering just above the 10 percent threshold required to enter parliament. If the party fails, the lion's share of its votes will probably end up with the ruling AK party under Turkey's transferable vote system. With the AK party already enjoying a commanding lead, such a scenario would most likely give the party a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which its needs to pass a new constitution, and that's a key goal of the Prime Minister.

On the streets of Istanbul there's disgust over the scandal, but also a recognition that it might be effective.

PERSON ON STREET: "[It is] bad, of course. It is not good for the elections before the elections always this kind of situation happens, and it is a little bit suspicious always, also in France now, just before elections there are scandals. It kills confidence in the country."

This man says the scandal reflects badly on the elections. Turkish people cannot tolerate a sex scandal, especially not the voters of the MHP. It will affect the party very badly and that will mean that the ruling party will remain in power.

With still over a week to go before polling day, there's a widespread expectation of further unexpected events, especially for the country's MHP.