Stunned by the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) election victory, the clandestine Gülen Movement is now trying to recuperate through a new covert political venture by gaining control of the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), led by Devlet Bahçeli.
Bahçeli has been seriously weakened by his election failure when the party barely passed the 10 percent election threshold, managing to win only 40 seats, a massive drop from the 80 seats the MHP won in the June 7 elections.
The party grassroots are up in arms, blaming Bahçeli for the defeat, and there are demands for his ouster. The opposition movement in the MHP has to win the support of more than 600 delegates to be able to change the party statute and thus hold a new party convention, where a new chairman can be elected. Without such a change, Bahçeli remains as the party's boss until 2018.
This has been an eye opener for the Gülen Movement, which is trying to edge back into the political scene in Turkey despite a series of defeats. The group tried to oust the AK Party government, led by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in 2013. When they failed and the coup attempt was foiled, they have been aggressively following a policy of attrition against Erdoğan and the AK Party.
The Gülen Movement was euphoric during the June 7 elections as the AK Party lost its parliamentary majority. They helped all the opposition groups in and outside the Parliament, thus hurting the AK Party. But, Erdoğan was too clever for them. He maneuvered to usher Turkey into new elections and on Nov. 1, with the AK Party's victory, the Gülen Movement was completely demoralized, learning that it has no political clout left in Turkey.
However it seems they didn't give up. Now the Gülen Movement is trying to use the back door to get hold of the MHP and thus win some political muscle to counter Erdoğan.
Some prominent businessmen are once again backing the Gülen Movement and are dishing out money to court the MHP delegates and thus form a group that will rally to oust Bahçeli. It is said that they are gaining ground with speed using Istanbul as their base. They are using the propaganda that if Erdoğan manages to create a presidential system, it will spell the end of the Turkish nationalist movement and Erdoğan will wipe them out of the political scene.
The grassroots of the MHP have always been close to the AK Party. Those with Islamic sensitivities have been close to Erdoğan and his colleagues. Yet, they have been alienated in recent times, as the AK Party has failed to offer them the benefits of being in power. That means the AK Party has not provided them with jobs and other dividends and this has helped the Gülen Movement to court these people and recruit delegates to oust Bahçeli.
The Kurdish nationalist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is now effectively out of the political equation, as it has so clearly identified itself with the secessionist PKK terrorist group. So, after the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Bahçeli's MHP remains the only viable political player that the AK Party can effectively deal with in Parliament. This makes the MHP a valuable player in the scene and thus a political asset that has to be protected. Now the AK Party has to help foil the Gülen Movement plot against the MHP.