Nationalist Movement Party

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Nationalist Movement Party
Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi
President Devlet Bahçeli
General Secretary İsmet Büyükataman
Founder Alparslan Türkeş
Slogan Ülkenin Geleceğine Oy Ver (roughly, "Vote for the country's future")
Founded February 9, 1969; 46 years ago (1969-02-09)
Preceded by Republican Villagers Nation Party
Headquarters Ehlibeyt Mh. Ceyhun Atuf Kansu Cd No:128, 06105 Ankara, Turkey
Paramilitary wing Grey Wolves (unofficial)
Membership  (2014[1]) 407,138
Ideology Turkish nationalism[2]
Political position Far-right[6][7][8][9][10][11]
Colours          Red, white
40 / 550
Metropolitan municipalities:
3 / 30
District municipalities:
166 / 1,351
Provincial councillors:
174 / 1,251
Politics of Turkey
Political parties

The Nationalist Movement Party (alternatively translated as Nationalist Action Party; Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP), is a Turkish far-right political party that adheres to Turkish nationalism and Euroscepticism. It was first formed by former colonel Alparslan Türkeş in 1969, who had previously become leader of the right-wing Republican Villagers Nation Party (CKMP) in 1965. The party mainly followed a neo-fascist and ultranationalist political agenda throughout the latter half of the 20th century, but later moderated its views under the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, who took over after Türkeş's death in 1997. The party's youth wing is the Grey Wolves (Bozkurtlar) organisation, which is also known as the 'Idealist Hearths' (Ülkü Ocakları).[12] Türkeş, who is widely revered by Turkish nationalists as the founder of the idealist movement, is commonly referred to as 'Chieftain' (Başbuğ) by his supporters.

Alparslan Türkeş founded the party after criticising the Republican People's Party (CHP) of moving too far away from the nationalist principles of their founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, famously claiming that he would have not founded the MHP had the CHP not deviated from Atatürk's ideology.[13] Although Türkeş failed to win any elections, the MHP won enough seats in the 1973 and 1977 general election to take part in two right-wing coalition governments led by Justice Party (AP) leader Süleyman Demirel. Türkeş served as the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey between 1975 and 1977 in what was referred to as the First Nationalist Front government and again between 1977 and 1978 in the Second Nationalist Front. After Türkeş's death and the election of Devlet Bahçeli as his successor, the party moderated its views and adopted a more mainstream nationalist agenda. The party under Bahçeli's leadership won 18% of the vote and 129 seats in the 1999 general election, its best ever result, coming second only to the Democratic Left Party (DSP). Bahçeli subsequently became Deputy Prime Minister after entering a coalition with the DSP and the Motherland Party (ANAP), though his calls for an early election resulted in the government's collapse in 2002. In the 2002 general election, the MHP fell below the 10% election threshold and lost all of its parliamentary representation after the newly formed Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory.

Since the 2007 general election, in which the MHP won back its parliamentary representation with 14.27% of the vote and 71 seats, the party has strongly opposed the peace negotiations between the government and Kurdish separatist militants and has been fiercely critical of the governing AKP over government corruption and authoritarianism. Nevertheless, the MHP has often been referred to critics as the 'AKP's lifeline', having either openly or covertly helped the AKP in situations such as the 2007 presidential election, repealing the headscarf ban and the June–July 2015 parliamentary speaker elections.[14] In the 2011 general election, the party's vote fell to 13% and won 53 seats, though increased to 16.3% and 80 seats in the June 2015 general election. Having consistently maintained third-party status in Parliament since 2007, the MHP halved its parliamentary representation to win 40 seats with 11.9% of the vote in the November 2015 general election, becoming the fourth largest party in Parliament behind the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).


Before 1980[edit]

In 1965, nationalist politician and ex-Colonel Alparslan Türkeş, who had trained in the USA for NATO and founder of the Turkish Gladio Special Warfare Department, gained control of the conservative rural Republican Villagers Nation Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi, CKMP). During an Extraordinary Great Congress held at Adana in Turkey on 8–9 February 1969, Türkeş changed the name of the party to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The MHP embraced Turkish nationalism, and under the leadership of Türkeş, militias connected to the party were responsible for assassinating numerous left-wing intellectuals and academics, including some Kurds, during the 1970s. [15] The leader of the party's youth wing, known as the Grey Wolves after Turkic mythology, claimed that they had an intelligence organization that was superior to the state's own.[16]

On the other hand, MHP had links to the Aydınlar Ocağı (AO; "Hearth of Intellectuals"), a right-wing think tank launched in 1970 by established university professors, which served as a connecting link between secular-conservative, nationalist and Islamic rightists, promoting the ideology of Turkish-Islamic synthesis. AO's ideas, which have been compared to those of the French Nouvelle Droite, had a determining influence on MHP's programmes and served to lend the far-right party a more legitimate, respectable appearance.[17]

On May 27, 1980, the party's deputy leader and former government minister Gün Sazak was assassinated by members of the Marxist–Leninist terrorist group Revolutionary Left (Turkish: Devrimci Sol or Dev Sol) in front of his home.[18]

When the Turkish army seized power on September 12, 1980, in a violent coup d'état led by General Kenan Evren, the party was banned, along with all other active political parties at the time, and many of its leading members were imprisoned. Many party members joined the neoliberal Anavatan Partisi or various Islamist parties. Party member (Agâh Oktay Güner) noted that the party's ideology was in power while its members were in prison.


The party later was reformed in 1983 under the name "Conservative Party" (Turkish: Muhafazakar Parti). After 1985, however, the name was changed to the "Nationalist Task Party" (Turkish: Milliyetçi Çalışma Partisi) then back again to its former name in 1992.[19][better source needed] In 1993, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five other deputies separated and founded the Great Union Party, which is a Islamist party.[19]


The MHP used to be described as a neo-fascist party[17][20] linked to extremist and violent militias.[21] Since the 1990s it has, under the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, gradually moderated its programme, turning from ethnic to cultural nationalism and conservatism and stressing the unitary nature of the Turkish state. Notably, it has moved from strict, Kemalist-style secularism to a more pro-Islamic stance, and has – at least in public statements – accepted the rules of parliamentary democracy. Some scholars[who?] doubt the sincerity and credibility of this turn and suspect the party of still pursuing a fascist agenda behind a more moderate and pro-democratic façade. Nevertheless, MHP's mainstream overture has strongly increased its appeal to voters and it has grown to the country's third-strongest party,[22] continuously represented in the National Assembly since 2007 with voter shares well above the 10% threshold.

Opposition to the HDP[edit]

Due to their ideological differences, the MHP is strongly opposed to any form of dialogue with the left-wing Kurdish nationalist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which Devlet Bahçeli has often opposed by voting against in Parliament. A notable example was in the June–July 2015 parliamentary speaker elections, where the MHP declared that they would not support any candidate and cast blank votes after the HDP announced support for the Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Deniz Baykal. The MHP also ruled out any prospect of a coalition government that receives support from the HDP after the June 2015 general election resulted in a hung parliament, even rejecting CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's offer of Bahçeli becoming Prime Minister in such a coalition.[23] MHP deputy leader Celal Adan claimed that 'even using our party's name in the same sentence as the HDP will be counted as cruelty by us'[24]

In early September 2015, the MHP and the HDP both voted against the new interim election government ministers from taking their oaths of office, causing speculation of whether the MHP was dropping their harsh stance against the HDP.[25] However, Semih Yalçın downplayed any notions of an 'alliance' between the two parties, stating that 'a broken clock will still show the correct time once a day, the HDP can sometimes take a correct decision in Parliament. Showing this as a "MHP-HDP coalition" is a deliberate diversion.'[26]


In July 2015, inmidst a wave of protests against the Xinjiang conflict, MHP-affiliated Ülkücü attacked South Korean tourists on Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square.[27] In an interview to Turkish columnist Ahmet Hakan, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli played the attacks down,[28] stating that "These are young kids. They may have been provoked. Plus, how are you going to differentiate between Korean and Chinese? They both have slanted eyes. Does it really matter?"[29] Bahcelis remarks were widely considered racist, and together with a banner reading “We crave Chinese blood” at the Ülkücü Istanbul headquarters, the affair caused an uproar in both Turkish and international media.[29]

At present[edit]

The party is headed by Devlet Bahçeli and has 52 deputies, three of them women, in the Grand National Assembly. The party has recently been putting a distance between itself and its history of ultranationalism, at occasion asking its members to keep away from "ethnic politics".[30][third-party source needed]

Election results[edit]

General elections[edit]

Flags of political parties before the Turkish municipal elections in Şile, Istanbul, March 2009
The MHP holding its electoral rally in Ankara, May 2015
Grand National Assembly of Turkey
Election date Party leader Number of votes received Percentage of votes Number of deputies
1969 Alparslan Türkeş 274,225 3.02%
1 / 450
1973 Alparslan Türkeş 362,208 3.38%
3 / 450
1977 Alparslan Türkeş 951,544 6.42%
16 / 450
1995[31] Alparslan Türkeş 2,301,343 8.18%
0 / 550
1999[32] Devlet Bahçeli 5,606,634 17.98%
129 / 550
2002[33] Devlet Bahçeli 2,629,808 8.35%
0 / 550
2007[34] Devlet Bahçeli 5,001,869 14.27%
71 / 550
2011[35] Devlet Bahçeli 5,585,513 13.01%
53 / 550
June 2015 Devlet Bahçeli 7,516,480 16.29%
80 / 550
November 2015 Devlet Bahçeli 5,599,600 11.90%
40 / 550

Senate Elections[edit]

Senate of the Republic (1960–1980)
Election date Party leader Number of votes received Percentage of votes Number of senators
1973 Alparslan Türkeş 114,662 2,7%
0 / 52
1975 Alparslan Türkeş 170,357 3,2%
0 / 54
1977 Alparslan Türkeş 326,967 6,8%
0 / 50
1979 Alparslan Türkeş 312,241 6,1%
1 / 50

Local Elections[edit]

Election date Party leader Provincial council votes Percentage of votes Number of municipalities
1973 Alparslan Türkeş 133,089 1,33% 5
1977 Alparslan Türkeş 819,136 6,62% 55
1994 Alparslan Türkeş 2,239,117 7,95% 118
1999 Devlet Bahçeli 5,401,597 17,17% 499
2004 Devlet Bahçeli 3,372,249 10,45% 247
2009 Devlet Bahçeli 6,386,279 15,97% 484
2014 Devlet Bahçeli 7,399,119 17.82% 166


  1. ^ "Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi". Party files. T.C. Yargıtay Cumhuriyet Başsavcısı (Office of the Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation of the Turkish Republic). 16 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Farnen, Russell F., ed. (2004). Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Identity: Cross National and Comparative Perspectives. Transaction Publishers. p. 252. ISBN 9781412829366. ..the nationalist-fascist Turkish National Movement Party (MHP). 
  3. ^ "MHP to start rallies against Kurdish initiative on Dec. 13". Today's Zaman. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Abadan-Unat, Nermin (2011). Turks in Europe: From Guest Worker to Transnational Citizen. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 19. ISBN 9781845454258. ...the fascist Nationalist Movement Party... 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Turkish far right on the rise". The Independent. 20 April 1999. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Avcı, Gamze (September 2011). "The Nationalist Movement Party's Euroscepticism: Party Ideology Meets Strategy" (PDF). South European Society and Politics (Routledge) 16 (3): 435–447. doi:10.1080/13608746.2011.598359. ISSN 1743-9612. 
  8. ^ Çınar, Alev; Burak Arıkan (2002). "The Nationalist Action Party: Representing the State, the Nation or the Nationalists?". In Barry Rubin & Metin Heper. Political Parties in Turkey. London: Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 0714652741. 
  9. ^ Huggler, Justin (20 April 1999). "Turkish far right on the rise". The Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Arıkan, E. Burak (July 2002). "Turkish ultra–nationalists under review: a study of the Nationalist Action Party". Nations and Nationalism (Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism) 8 (3): 357–375. doi:10.1111/1469-8219.00055. 
  11. ^ Butler, Daren (21 May 2011). "Pre-election resignations rock Turkish far right". Reuters. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  12. ^ Sirin, Veli (13 May 2013). "The Real Erdogan". New York: Gatestone Institute. ...the fascist Nationalist Action Party or MHP, known as the Grey Wolves, from the title of its paramilitary branch. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Desmond Fernandes and Iskender Ozden (Spring 2001). "United States and NATO inspired 'psychological warfare operations' against the 'Kurdish communist threat' in Turkey" (PDF). Variant 2 (12): 10–16. [dead link]
  16. ^ Değer, M. Emin (1978). CIA, Kontrgerilla ve Türkiye (in Turkish). Ankara: Kendi Yayını. p. 119. MHP lideri Türkeş, Ülkü Ocaklarını meşru müdafaa yaptığını söyler. Ülkü Ocakları Genel Başkanı da, 'bizim istihbarat örgütümüz devletin örgütünden güçlüdür' demektedir.  Quoted in "Susurluk'ta bütün yollar, devlete uğrayarak CIA'ya çıkar". Kurtuluş Yolu (in Turkish) 4 (39). 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  17. ^ a b Arıkan, E. Burak (1999). The Programme of the Nationalist Action Party: An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove?. Turkey Before and After Atatürk (Frank Cass). pp. 122–125.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Arikan1999_122" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  18. ^ "MİT'ten 1 Mayıs ve Gün Sazak yanıtı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  19. ^ a b[dead link]
  20. ^ Jacoby, Tim (2012). Fascism, Civility and the Crisis of the Turkish State. Political Civility in the Middle East (Routledge). p. 112. 
  21. ^ Sullivan, Colleen (2011). Grey Wolves. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Terrorism (Second ed.) (Sage). p. 236. 
  22. ^ Davies, Peter; Jackson, Paul (2008). The Far Right in Europe: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood. p. 358. 
  23. ^,301539
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Koreans and Chinese 'both have slanted eyes,’ Turkey’s nationalist leader says over attacks on tourists". Hürriyet Daily News. 6 July 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  28. ^ Ahmet Hakan (8 July 2015). "Koreans and Chinese 'both have slanted eyes,’ Turkey’s nationalist leader says over attacks on tourists". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Pinar Tremblay. date=20 July 2015 "Attacks on Chinese escalate in Turkey" Check |url= scheme (help). Al Monitor. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^[dead link]
  32. ^[dead link]
  33. ^[dead link]
  34. ^[dead link]
  35. ^ T.C. Yüksek Seçim Kurulu Başkanlığı (Supreme Election Board) (22 June 2011). "Karar No 1070 (Decision No. 1070)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Arıkan, E. Burak (1999). The Programme of the Nationalist Action Party: An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove?. Turkey Before and After Atatürk (Frank Cass). pp. 120–134. 
  • Arıkan, Ekin Burak (2012). Turkish extreme right in office: whither democracy and democratization?. Mapping the Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe: From Local to Transnational (Routledge). pp. 225–238. 
  • Başkan, Filiz (January 2006). "Globalization and Nationalism: The Nationalist Action Party of Turkey". Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 12 (1): 83–105. doi:10.1080/13537110500503877. 

External links[edit]