Cablegate: Turkey: Grey Wolves Re-Elect Pack 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 006535


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2013

(C) Classified by Deputy Political Counselor Charles O.
Blaha. Reason: 1.5 (b,d).

1. (C) Summary: Ultra-nationalist MHP delegates Oct. 12
re-elected Devlet Bahceli as party Chairman. Our contacts in
the party suggest there will not be many changes either to
the party administration or the party line -- deep skepticism
towards the EU and US and paranoia concerning Kurds in Turkey
and Iraq. Without significant changes, at least in the party
hierarchy, contacts outside the party suggest MHP will not be
able to regain its 1999 form, when it garnered 19 percent of
the vote in the national elections. End Summary.

2. (C) At an uninspired Oct. 12 party convention attended by
poloff, delegates for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)
overwhelmingly supported the re-election of former Deputy PM
Devlet Bahceli as party chairman. Bahceli received 688 votes
of the 1127 cast. His next closest competitor, long-time MHP
grassroots figure Ramiz Ongun, received 300 votes. In a
distant third place, Koray Aydin -- whose time as Public
Works Minister in the most recent Ecevit government was
clouded by corruption allegations -- received 137 votes.

3. (C) The atmosphere at the MHP convention contrasted
starkly with ruling AK Party's scripted convention held on
the same day. Perhaps an indicator of internal party
tensions, delegates could not agree on the convention's
supervisory board until 2 p.m., after which the official
proceedings began -- long after the 10 a.m. start time listed
in the convention agenda handed out at the gate. Although
the convention hall was packed with party supporters, the
audience lacked enthusiasm and only offered half-hearted
attempts at chanting "Prime Minister Bahceli."

4. (C) In his address to the crowd, Bahceli strongly
criticized the AK Government's Iraq policy, claiming the GOT
had surrendered to outside powers. He said the GOT has
dishonored Turkey and has not pursued any policies that have
benefited the Turkish nation. Opposition CHP Vice Chairman
and close Embassy contact Sinan Yerlikaya, who attended the
MHP convention, told poloff Oct. 17 that after hearing
Bahceli's speech, he believes MHP will react quickly and
loudly to any Turkish casualties resulting from a troop
deployment to Iraq (Note: CHP also opposes deploying Turkish
troops. End Note). In a subsequent Oct. 17 conversation,
Huseyin Kocabiyik, who once served as advisor to former PM
Ciller and who maintains extensive contacts on the political
right, echoed Yerlikaya's sentiment, saying that Bahceli's
speech suggests the party will organize its extensive
grassroots youth organizations in universities and elsewhere
to demonstrate against the GOT, especially if Turkish troops
take casualties.

Change of Heart

5. (C) Following the Nov. 2002 national elections, which left
MHP entirely out of Parliament after being the second largest
party in the legislature, Bahceli had promised not to stand
again for party chairman -- at the time, a nearly
unprecedented move by a Turkish political leader. However,
in the months leading up to the convention, our MHP contacts
began telling us Bahceli would make a comeback.

6. (C) In a Sept. 24 meeting with poloff, MHP Deputy
Secretary General Mehmet Telek said one reason Bahceli

decided to stand for election again is that he has
re-discovered the MHP idealists (Ulkuculer) -- also known as
Grey Wolves -- with whom he had tried to break since first
becoming MHP chairman in 1997. (Note: Many of our contacts
on the political right point to the Bahceli-idealist
disconnect as a major factor in the party's failure last Nov.
End Note). Telek explained that, originally, Bahceli wanted
to disassociate the party from the idealists' deserved
reputation for violence. To do so, Bahceli began closing
down idealist organizations and purging the administrative
ranks of the more seedy elements. Telek claims that the
idealists "have gotten the message" and are now more
"moderate." As a result, Bahceli feels more comfortable
dealing with this important element of the party's grassroots

What's Next?
7. (C) Our contacts suggest that Bahceli will make at least
some changes to the party administration. Mehmet Telek
acknowledged that the party will bring in some new faces, but
he does not believe there will be very many additions. MHP
Vice Chairman and close Embassy contact Sevket Bulent Yahnici
told us after the convention that the party assembly will
choose MHP executives (Vice Chairmen, administrative board)
next week. Yahnici, who has largely withdrawn from party
activities and does not expect to serve as Vice Chairman
again, was dismissive of any potential changes. He averred
that any new party executives will be chosen by the current
unsuccessful, Bahceli-led administration. As a result, the
party will have the same uninspired leadership with little
"vitality," he claimed.

8. (C) Many of our contacts tell us that Bahceli's
re-election will not lift MHP out of the doldrums. Kocabiyik
claimed that with Bahceli as chairman, MHP supporters may
increasingly slide to center-right True Path Party (DYP), led
by strong nationalist Mehmet Agar. Yahnici said Bahceli and
his team will not be able to rally the party's grassroots to
their full potential.


9. (C) Although our contacts largely dismiss Bahceli and his
cronies as uninspiring, MHP is a rooted political phenomenon
in Turkey with a solid base of support -- a base with a
sordid past. At times, MHP has been able to mobilize this
base in support of its hard-line nationalist policies --
including a skepticism towards the EU and US intentions and
neuralgia concerning the Kurds. Support for the party could
increase if nationalist sentiments rise. Nevertheless, right
now support for the party seems a far cry from the numbers it
enjoyed in 1999, when voters -- caught up in the nationalist
fervor following Ocalan's capture and tired of politics as
usual -- made MHP the second largest party in Parliament.
Indeed, the party -- its current leadership, in particular --
are still tainted by the perceived failures of the last
coalition government.

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