Nationalistic Right-Wing Turkey Party In Bid to Oust Longtime Leader

jjjjMembers of Turkey’s right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) plan an extraordinary congress on Sunday at which they will begin moves to try unseat longtime party leader Devlet Bahceli and recover ground lost to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party.

Dissident members of the MHP launched a campaign to oust Bahceli, 68, following a general election in November in which the party shed half its support — taking just 40 seats in the 550-member parliament compared to 80 five months previously.

Bahceli, who has led the party for 19 years, said in January that the next party congress would take place in 2018, meaning he would be in charge until then.

But polls show MPH members hungry for change, with over 500 signing a petition in support of holding an extraordinary congress to expedite his ouster.

It was not clear late Saturday, however, whether the meeting, at which Bahceli’s opponents want to begin the process of selecting a new leader, would go ahead.

Bahceli’s opponents have vowed to press ahead with the congress, despite the legality of the meeting being called into question and police sealing off the venue.

Replacing Bahceli, who lacks appeal with younger voters, could boost support for the MHP at the expense of Erdogan’s conservative ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The outcome could jeopardise Erdogan’s ambitions of winning a big enough majority in the next elections to allow him to change the constitution to boost his powers.

– Four leadership candidates –

Four contenders to succeed Bahceli have emerged, including charismatic female former interior minister Meral Aksener.

“The four candidates will be here tomorrow (Sunday) for the congress to take place,” 59-year-old Aksener, a former deputy speaker of parliament seen as the strongest candidate, said.

Bahceli went to court to try prevent the gathering going ahead.

The country’s highest appeal court said this week it will rule on the issue within a month.

Two lower courts have issued conflicting decisions.