Nationalist Movement Party

The Nationalist Movement Party (alternatively translated as Nationalist Action Party; Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP) is a Turkish far-right ultraconservative political party that adheres to Turkish ultranationalism and Euroscepticism.

Nationalist Movement Party

Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi
PresidentDevlet Bahçeli
General Secretaryİsmet Büyükataman
FounderAlparslan Türkeş
Founded9 February 1969 (1969-02-09)
Preceded byRepublican Villagers Nation Party
HeadquartersEhlibeyt Mh. Ceyhun Atuf Kansu Cd No:128, 06105 Ankara, Turkey
Paramilitary wingGrey Wolves (unofficial)
Membership (2018)467.571[1]
IdeologyTurkish ultranationalism[2][3][4][5]
Cultural nationalism[5][6][7]
Social conservatism[8]
National conservatism[9]
Right-wing populism[10][11]

Turkish-Islamic synthesis
Political positionRight-wing[15][16][17]
to far-right[18][19][20][21][22][23]
National affiliationPeople's Alliance
Colours          Red, White (official)
     Ruby red (customary)
SloganÜlkenin Geleceğine Oy Ver ("Vote for the Country's Future")
Grand National Assembly
49 / 600
Metropolitan municipalities
1 / 30
District municipalities
233 / 1,351
Provincial councillors
188 / 1,251
Municipal Assemblies
2,819 / 20,498
Party flag

The party was formed in 1969 by former colonel Alparslan Türkeş, who had become leader of the Republican Villagers Nation Party (CKMP) in 1965. The party mainly followed a Pan-Turkist and nationalist 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 Gray 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 criticizing 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 not have founded the MHP had the CHP not deviated from Atatürk's ideology.[24] Although Türkeş failed to win any elections, the MHP won enough seats in the 1973 and 1977 general election to take part in two 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.[25] 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 formed the People's Alliance electoral pact with the AKP for the 2018 Turkish general election.[26]


Before 1980

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.[27] 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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] In 1993, Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and five other deputies separated and founded the Great Union Party, which is an Islamist party.[31]


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[29][32] linked to extremist and violent militias.[33] 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,[34] 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.[35] 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.'[36]

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.[37] 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."[38]

Economic policies

During the June 2015 Turkish general election, the MHP announced a new economic manifesto. The MHP promised to improve the situation of Turkey’s working poor by lifting taxes on diesel and fertiliser, raising the net minimum wage to $518, giving a $37 transportation subsidy to every minimum wage worker, and giving those who cannot afford a house an additional $92 per month in rental aid. The MHP said these policies would allow a minimum wage earner living in a big city to earn as much an extra $646 annually.

The MHP stated that their economic policies would create 700,000 jobs, increase the national income per person to $13.3K, and increase exports to $238 billion while keeping annual growth at 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2019.


In July 2015, amidst a wave of protests against the Xinjiang conflict, MHP-affiliated Ülkücü attacked South Korean tourists on Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square.[39] In an interview to Turkish columnist Ahmet Hakan, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli played the attacks down,[40] 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?"[41] 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.[41]

Party leaders

# Leader
Portrait Constituency Took Office Left Office
1Alparslan Türkeş
Ankara (1965)
Adana (1969, 1973, 1977)
Yozgat (1991)
8 February 19694 April 1997
Muhittin Çolak (acting)5 April 19976 July 1997
2Devlet Bahçeli
(1948– )

Osmaniye (1999, 2007, 2011, Jun/Nov 2015)
6 July 1997incumbent

At present

The party is headed by Devlet Bahçeli and has 49[42] 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".[43]

There is an opposition against Devlet Bahçeli in the party led by Meral Akşener (later left to found İyi Party), Koray Aydın, Ümit Özdağ and Sinan Oğan.[44]

Election results

General elections

Grand National Assembly of Turkey
Election date Party leader Number of votes received Percentage of votes Number of deputies
1969Alparslan Türkeş274,2253.02%
3 / 450
1973Alparslan Türkeş362,2083.38%
3 / 450
1977Alparslan Türkeş951,5446.42%
16 / 450
1995[45]Alparslan Türkeş2,301,3438.18%
0 / 550
1999[46]Devlet Bahçeli5,606,63417.98%
129 / 550
2002[47]Devlet Bahçeli2,629,8088.35%
0 / 550
2007[48]Devlet Bahçeli5,001,86914.27%
71 / 550
2011[49]Devlet Bahçeli5,585,51313.01%
53 / 550
June 2015Devlet Bahçeli7,516,48016.29%
80 / 550
November 2015Devlet Bahçeli5,599,60011.90%
40 / 550
2018Devlet Bahçeli5,564,10311.10%
49 / 600

Senate elections

Senate of the Republic (19601980)
Election date Party leader Number of votes received Percentage of votes Number of senators
1973Alparslan Türkeş114,6622,7%
0 / 52
1975Alparslan Türkeş170,3573,2%
0 / 54
1977Alparslan Türkeş326,9676,8%
0 / 50
1979Alparslan Türkeş312,2416,1%
1 / 50

Local elections

Election date Party leader Provincial council votes Percentage of votes Number of municipalities
1973Alparslan Türkeş133,0891,33%5
1977Alparslan Türkeş819,1366,62%55
1994Alparslan Türkeş2,239,1177,95%118
1999Devlet Bahçeli5,401,59717,17%499
2004Devlet Bahçeli3,372,24910,45%247
2009Devlet Bahçeli6,386,27915,97%484
2014Devlet Bahçeli7,399,11917.82%166
2019 Devlet Bahçeli 3,209,416 7.46% 233

See also


  1. "Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi". Party files. T.C. Yargıtay Cumhuriyet Başsavcısı (Office of the Prosecutor at the Court of Cassation of the Turkish Republic). November 28, 2018. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015.
  2. Arman, Murat Necip (2007). "The Sources Of Banality In Transforming Turkish Nationalism". CEU Political Science Journal (2): 133–151.
  3. Eissenstat, Howard. (November 2002). Anatolianism: The History of a Failed Metaphor of Turkish Nationalism. Middle East Studies Association Conference. Washington, D.C.
  4. Tachau, Frank. (1963). "The Search for National Identity among the Turks". Die Welt des Islams. New Series. 8 (3): 165–176.
  5. Cook, Steven A. (2012). "Recent History: The Rise of the Justice and Development Party". U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership to. Council on Foreign Relations: 52.
  6. Göçek, Fatma Müge (2011). "The Transformation of Turkey: Redefining State and Society from the Ottoman Empire to the Modern Era". I.B. Tauris: 56. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. Tocci, Nathalie (2012). "Turkey and the European Union". The Routledge Handbook of Modern Turkey. Routledge: 241.
  8. Celep, Ödül (2010). "Turkey's Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue: The MHP's Reaction to the "Democratic Opening"". Insight Turkey. 12 (2).
  9. Carkoglu, Ali (2004). Turkey and the European Union: Domestic Politics, Economic Integration and International Dynamics. Routledge. p. 127.
  10. Farnen, Russell F., ed. (2004). Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Identity: Cross National and Comparative Perspectives. Transaction Secularism Publishers. p. 252. ISBN 9781412829366. ..the nationalist-fascist Turkish National Movement Party (MHP).
  11. 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...
  12. "Euroscepticism: Party Ideology Meets Strategy".
  13. "MHP to start rallies against Kurdish terrorist movement on Dec 13". Today's Zaman. 4 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  14. Söyler, Mehtap (2015). The Turkish Deep State: State Consolidation, Civil-Military Relations and Democracy. Routledge. p. 119. ISBN 9781317668800.
  15. Gerges, Fawaz (2016). Contentious Politics in the Middle East. Springer. p. 299.
  16. Yilmaz, Gözde (2017). Minority Rights in Turkey. Taylor & Francis. p. 65.
  17. "Turkish right-wing dissidents' bid to oust party leader foiled". Yahoo News. 15 May 2016.
  18. Turkey Recent Economic and Political Developments Yearbook Volume 1 - Strategic Information and Developments. P.46. Published in July 2015 and updated annually. International Business Publications, Washington, USA. Accessed via Google books. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  19. Global Turkey in Europe II. Energy, Migration, Civil Society and Citizenship Issues in Turkey-EU Relations. p.180. First published by Edizioni Nuova Cultura in 2014. Published in Rome, Italy. Accessed via Google books. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  20. Turkish far right on the rise. The Independent. Author - Justin Huggler. Published 19 April 1999. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  21. "Turkey election: Victorious Erdogan pledges 'consensus'". BBC News. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  22. "Turkey's Erdogan wins election". RTÉ. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  23. Uras, Umut (29 March 2019). "New test for Erdogan: What's at stake in Turkish local elections?". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  24. "Biz Kimiz? – Ahmet Şefki Kuzulu - Ülkü Ocakları Eğitim ve Kültür Vakfı".
  25. "Levent Gök: MHP'nin, AKP'ye can simidi olduğuna herkes tanık oldu". 30 July 2015.
  26. "Erdogan's AKP says to ally with nationalists for 2019 elections". Reuters. 21 February 2018.
  27. 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. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2009.
  28. 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. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
  29. 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.
  30. "MİT'ten 1 Mayıs ve Gün Sazak yanıtı". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  31. Archived from the original on August 17, 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. Jacoby, Tim (2012). Fascism, Civility and the Crisis of the Turkish State. Political Civility in the Middle East. Routledge. p. 112.
  33. Sullivan, Colleen (2011). Grey Wolves. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Terrorism (Second ed.). Sage. p. 236.
  34. Davies, Peter; Jackson, Paul (2008). The Far Right in Europe: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood. p. 358.
  35. "Kılıçdaroğlu'ndan Bahçeli'ye: AKP'nin koltuk değnekçisi!".
  36. "'Partimiz ile HDP'nin aynı cümle içinde kullanılmasını bile zul sayarız'".
  37. "CHP, MHP ve HDP aynı oyu verdi, TBMM'de yemin krizi çıktı".
  38. "MHP'den HDP ile ilgili 'ittifak' açıklaması".
  39. "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.
  40. 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.
  41. Pinar Tremblay (20 July 2015). "Attacks on Chinese escalate in Turkey". Al Monitor. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  42. "SEÇİM SONUÇLARI - 2015 genel seçim sonuçları".
  43. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 2013-01-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  44. "This woman may be biggest opposition to Erdogan". 26 May 2016.
  45. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  46. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  47. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  48. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  49. 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

  • 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.
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