MHP leader ready to face multiple competitors at party congress

MHP leader ready to face multiple competitors at party congress

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
MHP leader ready to face multiple competitors at party congress

If re-elected at this weekend’s convention, Devlet Bahçeli will move into his sixth term as MHP leader. DHA photo

For the first time in his political career, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will be challenged by more than one competitor during the party’s congress on Nov. 4, while delegates’ demands for change will be the highlight of the 10th congress of the party.

At Ankara’s Arena Sports Hall 1,241 MHP delegates will elect their next party leader who will serve in this post for three years. Bahçeli has held this post for 15 years after being elected leader for the first time in 1997 when former leader Alparslan Türkeş died.

The delegates will also elect a 75-member Central Executive Board (MYK), with the slogan of the congress being chosen as “Turkish Nation, Never Without You.”

If re-elected, Bahçeli move into his sixth term as party leader. The last time Bahçeli’s leadership was challenged was at the 2003 congress. This year’s congress has 12 potential candidates vying for his post. However, according to the MHP guidelines, in order to be declared as candidate, one must have signatures from at least 40 delegates in his application. Thus, it is likely that most of the potential candidates will not be able to run against Bahçeli.

Koray Aydın, a former public works minister and Trabzon deputy; Musavvat Dervişoğlu, MHP’s İzmir provincial chair; and Ahmet Çakar, former Istanbul deputy, are among these 12 potential candidates. While it is being speculated that some of these potential candidates may withdraw their bid in favor of Bahçeli, Aydın seems to be the strongest competitor against Bahçeli.

Bahçeli’s new faces

Despite presence of multiple competitors, Bahçeli’s re-elected as party leader seems almost certain.
Bahçeli is expected to bring new faces to the party’s administration with individuals from professions such as economists, diplomats and academicians.

Leading figures of the “ülkücü” (idealist) movement such as Şevkat Çetin have said they will be supporting Bahçeli.

In the run-up to the congress, 48 deputies of the MHP, which holds 51 seats in Parliament, released a declaration calling for support of Bahçeli. Engin Alan, who has been imprisoned and was sentenced to 18 years as part of the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case on Sept. 21, didn’t put his signature on that declaration either.

In the last two months, Aydın paid visits to provincial organizations of the MHP and asked for their support. Arguing that the party desired change, Aydın has portrayed himself as the sole candidate able to bring such a demand to life.

Yet, Aydın is expected to get the votes of around 400 delegates. Still, even that number of votes would be make Aydın and his team able to tell the grassroots: “We are the only alternative to Bahçeli.”

Speaking to private CNN-Türk news channel Nov.1, Aydın suggested that Bahçeli was avoiding disclosing who was behind the release of illegally taken video recordings of senior MHP members in the run-up to the June 12, 2011, parliamentary elections. At the time, rumors of sex videos featuring nine MHP deputy chairs were spreading like wildfire. Images of some of the named deputy chairs were then published on the Internet, prompting all nine executives to resign from their posts.

“In my opinion, there is an organization behind this [plot]. If I were [in Bahçeli’s place] I would bear down on this matter. Bahçeli didn’t do so and left it to oblivion,” Aydın said.