Is MHP leader’s seat challenged?

Is MHP leader’s seat challenged?

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Is MHP leader’s seat challenged

MHP leader Bahçeli has been serving his post for 14 years, yet his administration is now facing pressure. DAILY NEWS photo

The 10th congress of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will be held on Nov. 4 in Ankara. The MHP, known for its dominant nationalist ideology and its disciplined and authoritarian management, is preparing for a congress under an inflation of candidates for perhaps the first time in its history. There are exactly 10 candidates for MHP leadership. After the death of Alparslan Türkkeş, a “legend” in the nationalist community, Devlet Bahçeli was elected leader of the MHP and held the position for 14 years. Is this position now being shaken?

Collecting the signatures of 40 delegates on the day of the congress appears difficult for the 10 candidates. The strongest rival of Bahçeli seems to be former Minister of Public Works Koray Aydın and Müsavat Dervişoğlu due to his power in Izmir. These two may be able to collect the necessary signatures. It is a strong possibility that Dervişoğlu will withdraw on the day of the congress in favor of Bahçeli. Thus, the competition will likely be between Bahçeli and Koray Aydın.

No doubt, Bahçeli is an extremely powerful figure and it will not be easy to remove him from his seat. Bahçeli has succeeded in keeping the strong names of the MHP on his side as well as maintaining his influence on the delegates. Important names have sided with Bahçeli such as the son of Alparslan Türkeş, Tuğrul Türkeş; Oktay Vural; Mehmet Şandır; a key “ülkücü” (idealist) Şefkat Çetin and Meral Akşener, who was adopted into the party though she came from the center-right.

However, this charismatic family picture does not eliminate the pressures coming from grassroots party members.

Sources say Bahçeli wants to add new names in the party. He will launch small initiatives in the congress, while appointing new people to the front desk of the party and giving the grassroots party members a message of “renewal.” With his power over the delegates in his favor, he may be able to keep his seat by arithmetic superiority. The pulse of the MHP corridors suggests this result as well.
However, a victory at the congress with the power of the delegates may not be enough to end the fierce debates that have long been raging at the grassroots level.

Inside the MHP, there is a group who has long considered the Bahçeli administration “exhausted and worn out.” They are accusing Bahçeli, especially during his recent term, of “following the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), of not producing new policies, and of deactivating the MHP.” They regard the MHP leader as “an obstacle in front of change and transformation.”

Koray Aydın, the speaker of this movement, wants to topple Bahçeli with a medium-term plan. If not in this congress, then with the outcomes of the three elections that will occur until 2015, he calculates that he can take the MHP leadership.

It is estimated that Bahçeli will win with around 900 votes while Aydın will receive a maximum of 400 and minimum of 200 votes. Aydın knows that with 400-plus votes he would be a potential leader and alternative for Bahçeli in the future. Aydın will not be elected with this number of votes but he could perhaps see that with each bad result after local elections, Çankaya elections and general elections with a MHP lead by Bahçeli, the grassroots party members will turn to him. If Aydın and his team are able to turn this inner party dissident voice into a serious vote in the congress, even if Bahçeli succeeds in keeping his seat, his job will be much more difficult than before.

A possible change of leadership in the MHP– if not in this congress but in the future– may also flip the political projections. The expectations of the AKP, who are planning for 2014 and aiming to change the constitution, may also be affected by this change.

A senior politician from the MHP said, “The demand for ‘change and transformation’ from the grassroots MHP members will make it leadership change essential if not in this congress in the future. Bahçeli may be elected this time but he will feel the breath of the opposition led by Aydın on the back of his neck with each step. And if he is unsuccessful in the local elections, he may lose his seat. This change may also affect the game plan of the ruling party.”

The veteran politician also reminded us of the cassette incidents that erupted before the June 12 elections and points out that similar rumors have reached him before upcoming the congress.

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