Turkey's opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has witnessed a leadership dispute between MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli and party dissidents. In order to end this leadership battle, a court-appointed trustee committee announced that party dissidents will hold an emergency convention on June 19, while the party administration has set the convention date for July 10. Daily Sabah sat down with MHP Deputy Chair Prof. Dr. Semih Yalçın to discuss the leadership battle and the reasons for their harsh criticism of dissident MHP members.
MHP Deputy Chair Prof. Dr. Semih Yalçın (L) and Daily Sabah's Ali Ünal
Yalçın said that whatever happens on June 19, the MHP's real congress will be held on July 10, and stressed that embattled leader Bahçeli will not have any difficulty securing the chairmanship. According to Yalçın, dissidents' efforts to elect a new chairperson are a ploy to infiltrate and take the party under their control. Stating that these power groups have planned to infiltrate the MHP since 2009, Yalçın asserted that dissident MHP members with the support of Gülenist and other power groups will try to establish a new central-right party, if they cannot take control of the MHP.
Daily Sabah: Even after the party congress was announced for 2018, there were certain attempts to hold an emergency convention. Could you summarize what has transpired?
Semih Yalçın: As you know, at the beginning of this year, we determined that the party convention would be held on March 18, 2018. At the same meeting, we foresaw the start of district conventions by Oct. 9, 2016.
Even though these decisions were taken collectively, some of our colleagues who were dissatisfied with the results of the Nov. 1 elections started a petition for emergency convention, and submitted this petition to our headquarters by Jan. 15. We reviewed the petition. While this process was going on, they took this issue to the court with the excuse that our party headquarter didn't respond positively to their petition within 30 days, which is a false criteria.
As the central administration, I cannot say that we support their demand for an emergency convention, as we already had moved the district conventions forward. Moreover, an emergency convention isn't common for our party, unlike the Republican People's Party (CHP). Since the establishment of MHP, we have held only five emergency conventions, and all of them were held when they were the only possibility. Therefore, holding emergency conventions has never been a prevalent part of the MHP's 47 years of existence.
As party administrators, we tried to avoid naming names. However, these people are already known by the people and the media. We cannot say that all of them are like this. Yet certain names have been working with the Gülenists. When we say transatlantic, we usually mean two things, two power groups. First is Pennsylvania, thus the Gülenists, and the second is American imperialism. Gülenists are under the control of this American power group, whether you call it the Pentagon or the CIA.
With the demand for emergency convention, our cause became a legal dispute. The 12th civil court of peace decided unjustly. Our party legislation is clear, in the case of a petition signed by at least one-fifth of the members, the central executive board of the party may decide to hold an emergency convention. The important word is |"may;" therefore, it leaves the final decision to the board. Unfortunately, the 12th civil court of peace disregarded this fact and decided on an emergency convention, thus interfering in an intraparty dispute. As the MHP, we stated that we would appeal this decision and wait for the verdict. However, the same group of people who dub themselves the intraparty opposition, made it clear that they would not wait for the verdict and tried to hold their own congress on May 15. Fortunately, two of our sensible delegates went to the civil court of peace to block this effort and were able to obtain a court order to wait until a verdict is reached. Despite the court order, they still tried to hold a convention. Nevertheless, a verdict was eventually reached which was against our headquarters.
After the verdict, our leader Bahçeli decided to hold a convention, in order to not wear down the party with this internal conflict and not to avoid distance from the issues miring our country. We have announced an extensive convention to be held on July 10, which will include changes to party legislation and institutions. This decision was approved by the central executive board of the party.
To summarize, we decided that this was the most sensible thing to do, as we didn't want our party to be worn down by certain people, regardless of their affiliations. We evaluated all the events that transpired and respecting the final court decision, announced the convention. While this was supposed to solve the issues we are having, another group called for convention on a different date. It is obvious that these people want to undermine our party, as they do not respect our efforts to resolve the existing issues.
DS: You said that you do not recognize the call for convention made by this group. What is your reasoning?
If they want to hold a convention on a different date, they can do it; however, it is wrong to do such thing. We decided on July 10 in order to carry out the court decision. Therefore, there is no need to hold another convention on June 19.
Their reasons are obviously different, as they do not want to include the people in their convention. I can talk about many reasons for not recognizing their convention; however, it is they who should answer for what they are doing. They can do what they want. By not recognizing, we mean that none of the party administration will attend their convention. Still, if they want to act as if they are the central administration of the party, they are free to do so. Yet they will have to face the legal consequences.
DS: What will happen on June 19?
Whatever happens, the real convention will be held on July 10. We are planning to have a joyful convention together with our members, administrators and the people at Ankara Arena. We do not care much about the so-called convention on June 19. Everything is determined and we are focused on it. The MHP will not be administered by a group of people who claim that they are the opposition, while being guided by an outside interest.
DS: Will there be a change in party legislation at the convention on June 19?
Yes, they will try to enact a change, which is basically all they can do. Their authority is limited by the court. Still, it is pretty challenging for them to change Article 64, which states that the party chairperson inaugurates the convention. Therefore, they cannot elect the chairperson. If they try to do it, it would be illegal. Moreover their actions, despite the central administrations ruling, are against party discipline. This should also be noted.
DS: You said "they will try." Is the success of the convention on June 19 questionable?
I didn't imply that they will be successful or unsuccessful. They are trying to remove the article which states chairperson elections cannot take place during emergency conventions. We already stated that we will remove this article on July 10. They are just saying that they will do it earlier. That is all. If they want to do it, they can try to do it. No one can hold a convention while disregarding the central administration.
DS: There will also be a chairperson election on July 10. Current Chairman Bahçeli announced that he will be run as candidate. Do you believe that he will be successful once again?
I believe he easily will. He has been the leader of this movement for 19 years, while being a member for more than that. As you know, Bahçeli is just more than the successor of our founder Alparslan Türkeş, he is Türkeş's disciple. He is the most devoted member of our cause. He puts the cause and the people before his own self. A person like Bahçeli will win the hearts of the delegates, who already have elected him numerous times. The election of our chairperson, and the future of the party all lie within the hands of our delegates. This is how we perceive the current situation. I believe Bahçeli's devotion will be rewarded by our delegates.
DS: Bahçeli, referring to the opposition, said "we will not surrender our party to the Gülen Movement. Do you believe all of the candidates in MHP are supported by the Gülenists? Can you please elaborate this?
We never said "all." As party administrators, we tried to avoid naming names. However, these people are already known by the people and the media. We cannot say that all of them are like this. Yet certain names have been working with the Gülenists. When we say transatlantic, we usually mean two things, two power groups. First is Pennsylvania, thus the Gülenists, and the second is American imperialism. Gülenists are under the control of this American power group, whether you call it the Pentagon or the CIA.
You do not need to seek for evidence regarding the existence of this connection, as they clearly admit it. The crucial thing is that certain people are claiming responsibility for unsolved murders. This is unacceptable, as a political party should not be engaged in these kinds of incidents. If this connection is established between the party and the incidents, it would endanger the party; especially if we are talking about the MHP, which is a political and ideological movement which originated in a turbulent era. It is impossible for us to claim periods of time such as these. Certain groups want us to take this dangerous path, but we will not. What is seemingly an election for the chairperson is actually a ploy to infiltrate and take control of our party.
DS: Why are they trying to take control of the MHP, and what will these power groups do to the MHP, if they take control of the party?
Their aim is simple. They were in cooperation with the ruling party for 10 years. When they parted ways, this power group behind the Gülenists started seeking for possible new partners. Unfortunately, the CHP and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) were also among these possibilities. Before the June 7 and Nov. 1 elections, they tried different variations in attempting to gain a base. One of the most probable reasons is that we rejected taking a part in the 60 percent opposition bloc. These power groups were planning to infiltrate the MHP since 2009. Now, after the elections, they are trying to establish a political party exploiting the MHP's voter base. If they achieve this, they will challenge the ruling party once again.
They chose the MHP for three reasons. First is that the MHP is more in accord with their beliefs and ideology. The second reason is that they already have established some sort of structure within our party. The third is that they believe they can easily manipulate the MHP's internal dynamics to gain access to the political arena. It is certain that they have a Plan B; however, we will not allow them to realize their plots. We foresaw these events and Bahçeli has been talking about this since 2009. The MHP has never cooperated with Gülenists and never will. They are going to try to establish a new central-right party, if they cannot take control of the MHP. While doing this, they will attempt to divide our voter base for their own benefit. If all else fails, they will try to gather former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies and other right-wing politicians in order to establish a new party in Parliament.
DS: Do you think that you were able explain this "plot" to the delegates?
We believe so. We made some crucial announcements about this danger. We will continue to do so until July 10. We will express what MHP faces and what has been attempted with the MHP. MHP delegates are sensible. As there are former party officials and former deputies among this opposition, sometimes we have to answer questions about why we appointed them. It is common for a mainstream party to have representatives of different segments of society. However, when these people want to alter the party's essence by running for chairmanship, things are going to change. This is not about the party legislation, but about the delegates. You do not have to impose anything on them; the delegates will act in accord with their conscience and reason. They will evaluate each and every candidate at a multidimensional level. The delegates will decide on whether any of the candidates is suitable for being the chairman. Therefore there is no need to worry, as they will make the right choice. That's why I believe Bahçeli will not have any challenge in securing the chairmanship.
DS: In past weeks, it was thought the MHP would support constitutional reforms, which include a party-affiliated president and the presidential system. However, Bahçeli's statements revealed that this was not the case. How do you evaluate this situation? Was this a shift in the MHP's stance?
No, there hasn't been a shift in the MHP's stance. We will continue to support the fight against terror unconditionally. Moreover, we will definitely support any proposals by the government, if we believe that it is for the good of the state and its people. However, we stated that we are against the presidential system. No member of this party has made any statements contradictory to this. As you know, the MHP negotiated with the government when they proposed to reform the constitution in 2011. Moreover, we didn't obstruct the negotiations, as did the CHP. If the government says that we will make a new constitution while basing it on the 60 articles on which we had a consensus, we are ready for it. Yet if you are going to base the constitution on the presidential system, we are against this. This is because we do not see the presidential system as beneficial for the state or the people. To clarify, we are open to discuss a new constitution, as long as the government makes new law proposals and creates alternatives.