[FBIS Translated Text] The curiosity related to the near and
medium-term future of the MHP [Nationalist Action Party] is summed up in
the question repeated for almost five years: "Did the party change or
not?" If we elaborate on this a bit more: Is the MHP (its definition
changing according to the nature or character of the members) emerging
from its fascist/radical/fanatic/extremist/peripheral structure to become
a centrist party? Furthermore: Is the MHP the new owner of the center
right in the political coordinates?
For a long time there has been a persistent effort in the media to
answer these questions along the lines of the "MHP has changed." The MHP,
on the one hand, says (in the words of the MHP leader himself) that it
"has not changed." On the other hand, receiving praise and being pleasant
is attractive for the party. Thus, it is swinging between these two
It will be useful to define what has changed and what has not
changed in the MHP by being concrete and selective. Changes in the MHP are
essentially related to objective conditions, that is, the changes in the
structure of politics in Turkey. What are these changes?
(1) Politics has become media-focused and acquired a character
resembling "public relations" activities. A magical power is attributed in
politics to "forming an image," making the organization, members, and
program secondary. The MHP is also adopting showcase arrangements in
accordance with this method and makes an effort to show that the MHP
conforms to the current "values."
(2) In parallel with the increase in the "undecided" and "fickle" mass
of voters, a loose base allowing sympathizers with "limited
responsibility" who do not want a definite commitment has also influenced
the MHP. A large potential of sympathizers ("pop idealism") has been added
to the MHP's "firm" member-organization backbone that "consumes" the
party's symbols and slogans in a sort of customer-consumer relationship,
but does not perceive this relationship as an integral tie completely
determining their identity and giving direction to their life.
(3) The state policy centered around the NSC [National Security
Council], first, made an intensive, aggressive and high-powered
nationalism dominate the political environment. Although the Kurdish
problem seems to have been overcome, at least for the present, and
nationalistic alarmism thus curbed, this has not lifted the tight lid
clamped on politics by a strong perception of threat and chronic state of
vigilance. This situation contributed to the MHP's (with its corporateness
now coming before its ideology) "automatically" moving to the center.
Secondly, the "will" centered around the NSC has dominated the political
scene, giving the sense that strategic decisions are everything, and this
has reduced the initiatives of the parties to a minimum; the political
claims, programs, and ideologies unique to the parties have blurred and
evaporated. This situation has served the MHP in that it is conducive to
getting results with identities, images, and slogans rather than concrete
Resemblance to the Center Right
We can roughly summarize this picture as the center shifting to the
MHP and not the MHP shifting to the center! The MHP rather than being the
perpetrator of this change is in the position of being subjected to it.
The objective developments have provided the opportunity for the MHP to
resemble the center-right parties. The other side of this process is that
the center-right parties resemble the MHP (remember that the DYP [True
Path Party] of the 1990s was as "fascist" as the MHP).
What the MHP management has done since [Alpaslan] Turkes is to adapt
to this change. Bahceli's success has come about through fitting Turkes'
excessively "imposing" initiative fitting it into a scale that could be
tolerated by the party base and organization.
What Has Not Changed?
Although the MHP has gradually been carried away by the media-focused
image technology, it is also committed to a firm client-based policy. The
membership-organization backbone and the intensive network of face-to-face
relations that burst their seams in the last election are factors of the
relative superiority of the MHP, especially in the "other Turkey" (to use
the popular expression of recent days) and the MHP would not want to lose
this advantage. The passionate addiction of the party base for "power" and
especially its concrete needs, primarily economic, make it difficult for
the MHP to play politics on a basis that is "completely cleansed" of the
party base. This constraint pushes and will continue to push the MHP
toward a militant membership and partisan management rather than specific
The staff-grass roots dynamic on which the MHP is based exists in a
mass spirit that is trained to perceive what they consider rivals as
"internal enemies" in the gravitational field of nationalistic heroism,
ready "to be provoked" and when "provoked" justifying lynching-style
aggressiveness. This potential is not limited to the "Idealist Hearths"
occasionally referred to as the center of "fanaticism." This fascist
potential is not directly and solely under the guidance of the MHP, but
has a "real" relationship and communication with the MHP and leads what
has not changed in the MHP.
MHP's Historical Function
A unique (historical) function of the MHP is to be a kind of
mediator between the system/center and this membership-base
structure,this "mass spirit" (which,depending on how you look at it, could
also appear to be the "national will"). The experience of a power
partnership and its difficulties has made this function even more evident
and critical. Those who speak with the "voice of the party base" make fun
of the present situation saying, "During 12 September our minds were in
power, but our bodies were in prison. Now we are in power, but our minds
are in prison."
The party management says that the coalition partnership is
essentially a first experience for "getting the MHP used to the system"
and recommends patience by saying that the MHP's true performance will be
revealed when it comes to power on its own.
Strategic Target to Preserve 15 Percent of Vote
To be in power ("in the state") is vitally important both
symbolically and financially, and it means a rather long laundry list of
patience and concessions. Suffice it to say that the position of power
should make it possible for the symbolic and material gains to
counterbalance the concessions. In material gains, especially from the
viewpoint of the medium-level staff members, the situation does not look
bad at all! As for symbolic gains, the MHP is handling the situation with
relatively weak thrusts, such as the show of a "principled attitude
related to corruption,". far from satisfying the "doctrinary" and
"activist" enthusiasm that addresses the sympathizer-voter base rather
than the party membership.
The strategic goal of the MHP is to consolidate its voter potential
at around 14-15 percent. The way to accomplish this is to secure the loose
sympathizer-voter potential without damaging the "motivation" of the party
membership base. The solution to this problem is going to take even more
effort, if one considers that the "pop idealist" wave has decreased from
its peak of the 1990s.
The MHP is struggling with this dilemma on the eve of an exciting
grand congress. The top party management must be hoping that a classic
center right will emerge from the yeast of combining new member
registration with the competition at the congress and that the shopping
policy (clientelism) will open doors to finding a suitable middle road.
The congress competition, meanwhile, brings with it the dangers of
"dilution" and "going astray" (as regards the party membership and the
"cause") on the one hand, and the danger of burying the organization in an
internal power struggle on the other hand. This tension will continue,
"until kingdom come".
(from:Milliyet (Ankara edition), 25 August 2000)