Nationalist Movement Party
|General Secretary||İsmet Büyükataman|
|Founded||9 February 1969|
|Preceded by||Republican Villagers Nation Party|
|Headquarters||Ehlibeyt Mh. Ceyhun Atuf Kansu Cd No:128, 06105 Ankara, Turkey|
|Paramilitary wing||Grey Wolves (unofficial)|
|National affiliation||People's Alliance|
Red, white (official) |
Ruby red (customary)
|Slogan||Ülkenin Geleceğine Oy Ver (roughly, "Vote for the country's future")|
|Grand National Assembly||
50 / 600
3 / 30
166 / 1,351
174 / 1,251
3,501 / 20,498
The Nationalist Movement Party (alternatively translated as Nationalist Action Party; Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP) is a Turkish far-right conservative political party that adheres to Turkish ultranationalism and Euroscepticism.
The party was formed in 1969 by former colonel Alparslan Türkeş, who had become leader of the far-right Republican Villagers Nation Party (CKMP) in 1965. The party mainly followed a Pan-Turkist 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) organization, which is also known as the "Nationalist Hearths" (Ülkü Ocakları). 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) for moving too far away from the nationalist principles of their founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, claiming that he would have not founded the MHP had the CHP not deviated from Atatürk's ideology. 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 plurality.
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. 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). The MHP supported a 'Yes' vote in the 2017 referendum, and has formed the People's Alliance electoral pact with the AKP for the 2018 Turkish general election.
In 1965, nationalist politician and ex-Colonel Alparslan Türkeş, who had trained in the United States for NATO, founded 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. 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.
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.
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.
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 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. In 1993, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five other deputies separated and founded the Great Union Party, which is an Islamist party.
The MHP's view represents the Nine-Light doctrine, based on Turkish nationalism shaped by Islam. The MHP used to be described as a neo-fascist party linked to extremist and violent militias. 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 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, continuously represented in the National Assembly since 2007 with voter shares well above the 10% threshold.
Opposition to the HDP
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. 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.'
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. 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."
In July 2015, inmidst a wave of protests against the Xinjiang conflict, MHP-affiliated Ülkücü attacked South Korean tourists on Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square. In an interview to Turkish columnist Ahmet Hakan, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli played the attacks down, 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?" Bahceli's 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.
|Portrait||Constituency||Took Office||Left Office|
Adana (1969, 1973, 1977)
|8 February 1969||4 April 1997|
|–||Muhittin Çolak (acting)||5 April 1997||6 July 1997|
Osmaniye (1999, 2007, 2011, Jun/Nov 2015)
|6 July 1997||incumbent|
The party is headed by Devlet Bahçeli and has 50 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".
|Election date||Party leader||Number of votes received||Percentage of votes||Number of deputies|
3 / 450
3 / 450
16 / 450
0 / 550
129 / 550
0 / 550
71 / 550
53 / 550
|June 2015||Devlet Bahçeli||7,516,480||16.29%|
80 / 550
|November 2015||Devlet Bahçeli||5,599,600||11.90%|
40 / 550
49 / 600
|Election date||Party leader||Number of votes received||Percentage of votes||Number of senators|
0 / 52
0 / 54
0 / 50
1 / 50
|Election date||Party leader||Provincial council votes||Percentage of votes||Number of municipalities|
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