As disputes in the opposition MHP continue and dissidents seek an extraordinary congress, a recent survey indicated that 61.5 percent of MHP voters believe Gülenists have infiltrated the party and 85.2 percent named Meral Akşener, a former MHP deputy, as the Gülen-linked figure who aims to take the chair seat
As the intra-party conflict continues in the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with the dissidents seeking an extra-ordinary congress, a recent survey on the allegation of links between the Gülen Movement and MHP dissidents indicates that more than half of the party supporters believe that the Gülen Movement's infiltration is in effort to manipulate MHP politics.
After remarks from MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli revealed that the MHP would not let the Gülen Movement manipulate Turkish politics from overseas, the Ankara-based Objective Research Center (ORC) conducted a survey on MHP voters in 36 provinces with the participation of 3,950 MHP supporters. According to the survey, 61.4 percent of MHP voters believe that the Gülen Movement is trying to reshape MHP politics while 31.4 percent do not and 4.5 percent refrained from giving their opinions on the issue.
Regarding the question which asked survey participants what the movement aims to do by this infiltration, 32.5 percent out of participants who already believe that Gülenists have infiltrated the MHP said that the movement seeks to seize the MHP's youth organization, Idealist Clubs (Ülkü Ocakları), pushing them to take to the streets. Twenty-five percent believe that the reason for the Gülenist infiltration within the MHP is to settle the score with Bahçeli while 16.5 percent believe that the Gülen Movement aims to prevent the establishment of a new constitution. The percentage of those who believe there are other reasons for the infiltration is 7.5 percent, with 8.3 percent of those surveyed indicating that they do not have an opinion on the issue.
Eighty-five percent of those who believe Gülenist infiltration has occurred also said that the top figure the movement hopes to see as MHP chairman is Meral Akşener, a former MHP deputy and strong figure within the party. Three percent of those surveyed indicated the resigned Vice Chairman Ümit Özdağ while only 1.2 percent said that intra-party opposition member Sinan Oğun is the name that is supported by the Gülen Movement. Ten percent refrained from giving their opinion on the question.
After two local courts decided to impose an interim injunction on April 29 to a court ruling seeking to impose an interim injunction on the court ruling taken in favor of compelling the MHP to hold an extraordinary congress, 59.1 percent found the decision justified while 30.4 found it baseless, 10.5 percent did not give an opinion and58.7 percent believed that there is no need of extraordinary congress within the MHP. On the other hand,32.4 percent support the congress and 8.9 percent have no opinion on the survey question.
The MHP in early April launched an investigation into Akşener after she made comments against Bahçeli, describing the current party leader as the top "parallel" figure – a term used in Turkey to describe the Gülen Movement – when responding to allegations by Bahçeli who claimed that Akşener's efforts for an extraordinary congress were the work of the controversial Gülen Movement.
MHP dissidents have been very localized since 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 in the past weeks 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 will be 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. 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 making the youth take to the streets.
It was speculated that the Gülen Movement was targeting the MHP chairmanship through Meral Akşener's candidacy. Akşener 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 so if I had," she contended. Led by Fethullah Gülen who lives in a self-imposed exile in the U.S., the Gülen Movement, referred to as Gülenist Terror Organization / Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY) in official documents, is being probed for planning a coup against the government through investigations launched by its members in the police and judiciary using fake documents and illegal wiretapping.
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