As the disputes in the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) continue with dissidents seeking an extraordinary congress, the Ankara-based Objective Research Center (ORC) recently conducted a survey with MHP voters that found strong support for current MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli.
According to the survey results, Bahçeli received 55.2 percent of support from participants, while former deputy chairwoman and MHP dissident Meral Akşener received 25.8 percent support.
The MHP recently launched an investigation into Akşener following her comments against Bahçeli in which she described the current party leader as the top "parallel" figure when responding to allegations by Bahçeli claiming Akşener's efforts for an extraordinary congress as being the work of the controversial Gülen Movement.
MHP dissidents have been very local after the Nov. 1 elections, in which the party barely passed the 10 percent national election threshold. Since then, Meral Akşener, Sinan Oğan and Koray Aydın have raised their voices against the chairman and have sought an extraordinary congress.
Having collected enough signatures, the trio submitted them to the party. The party, however, refused to gather an extraordinary congress and forced the dissidents to take the matter before the court. The court last week decided to appoint trustees to the party, which decided to gather an extraordinary congress on May. 15.
"We have no party to hand over to the 'parallel [structure],' " Bahçeli said last week, adding that the date for a congress is March 18, 2018. Claiming that the Gülen Movement wants to design Turkish politics through the MHP, Bahçeli contended that it will never reach this goal. "I see people who scream out with joy. No one should have desires in this vain," he said.
Bahçeli had also claimed in a written statement on a news website late February that the Gülen Movement, led by fugitive cleric Fethullah Gülen, plans to seize the MHP chairmanship and turn it into an operational party by dragging the youth into the streets.
It was speculated that the Gülen Movement is targeting the MHP chairmanship through Meral Akşener's candidacy. Akşener, a former MHP deputy, kicked-off an election campaign-like tour in February in the western province of Denizli where she addressed dissidents and sought backing.
Bahçeli also hinted at a candidate being the political tool of the movement in December 2015, saying: "[T]here is one candidate who joined the MHP as a political figure of the Fethullah Gülen Movement."
Even though Bahçeli did not name the "political tool," Akşener quickly dismissed the claims about her being the "tool." "I have no connection to the Gülen Movement. I would have proudly said if I had," she contended.
The ORC survey found that 51 percent of participants want Akşener to be discharged from the party, 33.5 percent of respondents said she should receive a warning and 15.5 percent said no action should be taken.
Participants were asked whether they support reintroducing the death penalty for crimes such as rape, treason and/or terrorism, which received 90 percent approval.
Regarding lifting parliamentary immunity, 76.9 percent of respondents said they support the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) motion that was presented to Parliament.
The survey also asked about Turkish-EU relations and found that 72 percent of participants still believe Turkey is strong and has a strong voice in the international arena. Eighty percent said that they did not care about Turkey's EU accession, and 88.1 percent said they do not trust the EU.