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Cablegate: Turkey's Nationalist Mhp: Grey Wolf Pack Snaps at Lone Wolf Leader Bahceli

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 000701


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2013

(U) Classified by PolCouns John Kunstadter; reasons: 1.5 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: MHP members at all levels blame party leader
Bahceli for the party's poor performance in Nov. 3 elections.
Meanwhile, Bahceli is reneging on his promise to step aside
and is working to secure his grip on the party, but faces
growing pressure from the MHP grassroots and "Grey Wolves"
cadres. MHP currently is keeping its powder dry and staying
silent in the face of AK's overwhelming electoral victory and
high approval ratings, but could become more of a
street-level factor amid growing public anxiety and potential
street protests over Iraq. End summary.

The Bride Gimps Along

2. (C) Reeling from defeat in the Nov. 3 national elections,
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) officials are searching for
answers. Our MHP contacts -- both at the local and national
levels -- blame the party's poor showing largely on
idiosyncratic leader Devlet Bahceli and on Bahceli's
hand-picked cronies in the MHP pack. Bahceli and company
failed to deliver, they say, on MHP's campaign promises,
including hanging convicted PKK leader Ocalan and solving the
Islamic headscarf problem. Moreover, Bahceli's bungling of
MHP's campaign list, which the MHP leader packed with names
unpopular among the party's grassroots, underscored a growing
division between the party elite yearning for mainstream
acceptance and its more unrefined and hardcore base. MHP
member Abdullah Helvaci, mayor of Kutludugun town outside of
Ankara, told poloff Jan. 17 that Bahceli lacks the courage
and strong personality to push MHP's agenda. Indulging in
classic grim MHP rhetoric, Helvaci asserted that Bahceli had
had his chance and blew it while in government: "While
(then-sickly P.M.) Ecevit was wetting his pants, Bahceli
still acted like his bride," Helvaci exclaimed.

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3. (C) Bahceli announced just after the elections that he
would not stand for party chairman at MHP's next convention.
However, our contacts universally believe that he will try to
hang on and suggest he is already hard at work.

-- Riza Muftuoglu, a Movement intellectual and head of MHP's
Turkic States and Societies Association, explained to poloff
Jan. 14 that Bahceli is planning a comeback. The MHP
administration is still in Bahceli's hands, he said.
Muftuoglu noted that Bahceli's return will exacerbate
existing tensions between the leadership group and the base;
since the elections, the number of new party membership
applications has dropped dramatically. Muftuoglu asserted
that if Bahceli does stay, he has no choice but to appease
the party base by purging the party's higher ranks of yes-men.

-- Turgut Altinok, AK Party mayor of Ankara's conservative,
nationalist Kecioren township (and a former MHPer), recently
"guaranteed" to us that Bahceli will not step down, a move
that he says will doom MHP in the next elections.

4. (C) Beyond its own internal fractures, MHP must wrestle
with the threat of the populist (and anti-American) movement
on the political right of media mogul and Motorola deadbeat
Cem Uzan's Genc Parti and the emergence of former Interior
Minister Mehmet Agar as leader of True Path Party (DYP).
Muftuoglu asserted that Genc's nationalist rhetoric had
attracted some 3% of MHP's vote total -- enough to keep MHP
out of Parliament. Furthermore, Muftuoglu explained, with
his deep pockets and multiple media outlets, Uzan will have
little trouble keeping himself in the headlines. For his
part, Agar is a figure with nationalist credentials and,
according to Muftuoglu, has a considerable base of support in
rural Anatolia, where MHP -- especially at the local level --
has been strongest. According to Muftuoglu, Agar will be a
"serious threat" to MHP in the future.

What's next?

5. (C) Despite the competing currents at the higher levels of
the organization, MHP is still a party of the streets. It is
likely to rely on its hardcore nationalists to maintain MHP's
contact with alienated and other disaffected voters. How
loud they become will have direct influence on the outcome of
the next MHP congress, expected to be held in October,
according to our contacts. More important is the effect this
internecine struggle may have on more immediate matters. As
the GOT approaches decisions on Iraq and Cyprus, we need to
watch MHP's rougher elements. With their deserved reputation
for violence, these elements will seek to make their presence
felt amid the general clamor of protest -- potentially making
street demonstrations more problematic for the authorities.

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