2 Turkish politicians resign over sex tapes

AP News
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Posted: May 10, 2011 9:30 AM
2 Turkish politicians resign over sex tapes

Two more top Turkish opposition politicians resigned Tuesday _ a month before the country's general election _ over secretly filmed tapes posted on the Internet that reportedly showed them having extramarital affairs.

The resignations of Bulent Didinmez and Ihsan Barutcu raised to four the number of far-right Nationalist Action Party politicians forced to withdraw from the June 12 elections. Two other party politicians resigned last month after similar sex tapes, apparently filmed with hidden cameras, hit the Internet.

Party leader Devlet Bahceli says Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's supporters may be behind the tapes, deliberately trying to hurt the party, which appeals to voters who are both nationalist and religious.

Opinion surveys show the far-right party is hovering close to a 10 percent support threshold that is designed to keep smaller parties out of Turkey's parliament.

If the Nationalist Action Party fails to pass the 10 percent barrier, its votes would be redistributed among the parties represented in parliament and Erdogan's Islamic-based party would stand to benefit.

The ruling party appears to be easily heading toward a third term in office, but it is aiming for an overwhelming majority that would allow it to rewrite Turkey's constitution.

Erdogan's ruling party on Monday denied any role in the sex tapes, challenging Bahceli to submit proof. Prosecutors have launched an investigation.

Erdogan still used the scandal to ridicule the nationalists.

"Instead of blushing with embarrassment, they are slinging mud at us," he said during an election rally Tuesday. "(We) are not interested in their dirty affairs."

Last year, Deniz Baykal, the longtime leader of Turkey's secular main opposition party, stepped down as chairman after a secretly taped video allegedly showed he was having an affair. Baykal claimed he was a victim of a political plot by the government. Prosecutors launched an investigation but have not found the perpetrator.