Nationalists seek alternatives to MHP - ATP and BBP merger

Abdulhaluk Cay, who was fired from his post as a state minister by Bahceli, is moving to merge the BBP, led by Muhsin Yazicioglu and the ATP, led by Tugrul Turkes. The move is opposed by some MHP mavericks, including Somuncuoglu, Oksuz and Gungor, who was expelled BBP after recruits. The BBP leader is meeting with MHP mavericks as well as with other deputies to increase his parliamentary strength. He has contacted Mehmet Ceylan and Enis Oksuz. Ceylan has responded favorably while Oksuz feels he should remain in the MHP.

Ayla Ganioglu

The nationalists in Turkey have begun seeking new alternatives to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the senior partner of the coalition, after the party failed to keep its election promises and its strength eroded substantially during the government's three-year rule.

Mavericks in the MHP, who have fallen-out with party leader Devlet Bahceli, the deputy prime minister, have started moves to create a new party that would unite the nationalists.

There is talk that the Grand Unity Party (BBP) of Muhsin Yazicioglu and Tugrul Turkes' Enlightenment Party of Turkey (ATP) may soon merge. Yazicioglu and his colleagues left the MHP after falling at odds with its late leader, Alparslan Turkes. Tugrul Turkes parted with the MHP after the death of his father and founded the ATP. There are also rumors that Yazicioglu is contacting some MHP deputies to enlist them in the BBP, and thus to allow his party to enter Parliament.

MHP Corum Deputy Abdulhaluk Cay, who was sacked as state minister by Bahceli, is said to be behind the move to merge the BBP and the ATP, both without seats in Parliament. His aim is said to be to create a viable alternative to the MHP which can be backed by the nationalists. Cay was fired as minister when he hosted a meeting of the Turkish Convention attended by the Turkic Republics and invited former president Suleyman Demirel to chair the meeting. Bahceli did not attend the convention.

There are rumors that Cay is meeting other MHP mavericks to convince them to defect. However, Cay has only managed to draw Eyup Aktepe, the former MHP deputy chairman, to his side. Aktepe was fired for criticizing former State Minister Hikmet Ulugbay from the Democratic Left Party (DSP), a senior partner of the coalition. Other MHP mavericks have been cool to the idea of joining a party created by the merger of the BBP and the ATP.

Former State Minister Sadi Somuncuoglu (MHP-Aksaray), who has supported the creation of a new alternative to the MHP, has told his close associates that he has given up on the idea and that he is watching Cay's efforts to merge the ATP and the BBP from a distance. Somuncuoglu became a presidential candidate, despite objections from Bahceli, and was later sacked as state minister.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) has learnt that while the BBP is warm to the idea of merging with the ATP, the ATP is rather cool to the idea. However, the fact that the conventions of the two parties will both be held on the same day, June 2, has increased speculation that they will join forces. The ATP will hold its convention at the Selim Sirri Tarcan Sports Hall, the BBP at the Ataturk Sports Hall, both in Ankara.

Meanwhile, BBP leader Muhsin Yazicioglu is meeting several deputies from various parties in his search for defectors. He is also reportedly concentrating on the MHP mavericks, telling the deputies he has met with that the BBP will be represented in Parliament with more than one deputy. Political parties need to be represented by at least three deputies to be eligible for Treasury aid.

There were rumors that MHP Sivas Deputy Mehmet Ceylan, who has met with Yazicioglu, will defect to the BBP. Ceylan confirmed this to several deputies he met with in Parliament. There were also claims that Yazicioglu has met with MHP Icel Deputy Enis Oksuz, the former transportation minister who was forced out of office for opposing International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands.

Independent Icel Deputy Ali Gungor, who was expelled from the MHP for criticizing DSP leader and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, was also on Yazicioglu's transfer list, but sources close to the deputy have said that he has no intention of joining the BBP. Gungor, who is seeking a meeting with former MHP executives and deputies, reportedly feels a solution should only be sought within the MHP.

Ankara - Turkish Daily News - 22.04.2002