MHP still at odds over snap congress date

MHP still at odds over snap congress date

MHP still at odds over snap congress date

AA photo

The contested leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, has slammed as “chaos lovers” the dissidents set to organize an extraordinary party congress on June 19, in line with the decision of a court-appointed trustee panel, in contradiction to Bahçeli’s announcement of a snap congress on July 10. 

“I designated the date of the extraordinary grand congress as July 10, 2016. Imposing [a congress on] June 19, despite this, is chaos-loving,” Bahçeli told MHP members during a traditional fast-breaking meal organized by the party’s provincial administration in Istanbul on June 12. 

Bahçeli claimed the dissidents did not oppose his policy decisions as party leader but rather provided assistance to a “plot” targeting the MHP.

“Leave everything aside; are they saying there is something wrong with our politics? No. Is there a deficiency, error, embarrassment in reading the agenda of Turkey or the world? Is there an ideological inconsistency? No,” the party chair said, adding the opponents were “intermediate staff of a terrifying project” unless they were ignorant.

“The president is part of this game. The Justice and Development Party [AKP] accompanies this game. The parallel organization and some media function as the propaganda leg of this ploy,” Bahçeli added, referring to a purported parallel state formed by sympathizers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen which allegedly aims to topple Turkey’s government.

Nonetheless, former MHP lawmakers who announced their intention to run for party leadership insisted on holding the snap congress on June 19.

Meral Akşener, perceived as a strong candidate, said the congress on June 19 was “legitimate, legal and mandatory,” criticizing the party’s management for warning party members against joining the congress. 

Akşener clarified that party bylaws would be changed on June 19 followed by an electoral congress, as opposed to Bahçeli’s announcement that the July 10 meeting will be an electoral congress.

“Our bylaws do not give the right to convene an electoral congress either to the MYK [Central Executive Committee], the party leader or to delegates, like ourselves, who collect signatures,” Akşener said, adding that it was “certainly not right or legal to say ‘do not go [to the congress] on June 19, come to the congress with an election on July 10.’” 

Another candidate, Sinan Oğan, also voiced opposition to Bahçeli’s remarks, underlining they could not wait for a regular congress in 2018 because it was difficult to “digest” the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) garnering more seats in parliament than Turkish nationalists.

“How do you digest the MHP lagging behind the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] in parliament?” he asked, controversially equating the HDP with the militant organization.

“This does not demonstrate our power; we are a party that is a candidate for the government,” Oğan added.
The decision of a trustee panel to hold a party congress on June 19 came less than a week after the MHP announced on May 25 that a snap congress would be held on July 10. The MHP agreed to hold a snap congress after the Supreme Court of Appeals approved a local court’s decision for the party to set a congress date. 

Party dissidents failed to hold a controversial extraordinary party congress due to police security measures in front of an Ankara venue that was to host the gathering on May 15, after days of contradicting verdicts by lower local courts. 

Former MHP lawmakers Akşener, Oğan, Koray Aydın and Ümit Özdağ, who voiced their intention to run for the party leadership, had tried to reach the venue to hold the congress but were blocked by the police.

The dissidents criticize Bahçeli, who has been the MHP head since 1997, over the party’s poor showing in the Nov. 1, 2015, election, in which it only won 11 percent of the vote and 40 seats in parliament.