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The Nationalist Action Party in the 2011 Elections: The Limits of Oscillating Between State and Society

The MHP won 13 percent of the vote in the June 2011 elections, which guaranteed it 52 seats in parliament. Ever since the 1960s, the MHP has operated with a vague party identity that amalgamated different, even contradictory, elements such as Islam, folk nationalism, secularism, militarism, Kemalism, statism, and even Ottomanism. However, the serious issues that are challenging Turkish politics today, such as civilian-military relations, the Ergenekon trial, Islam in the public sphere, the Kurdish question, the crisis of the presidential election, or the 2010 referendum, have made a nebulous discourse operationally impossible. This paper argues that the recent political polarization between the AK Party and the CHP put an end to the MHP’s strategy and discourse of traditional obscurantism, causing in these last elections this party’s unimpressive electoral performance.

The Nationalist Action Party in the 2011 Elections The Limits
Ever since the 1960s, the MHP has operated with a vague party identity that amalgamated different, even contradictory, elements such as Islam, folk nationalism, secularism, militarism, Kemalism, statism, and even Ottomanism.
 

The Nationalist Action Party (Milli­yetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP) won 13 percent of the vote in the June 2011 elections, which guaranteed it 52 seats in parliament. Although many parties were registered, the main competition was between the three major Turkish political parties: the AKP,1 the CHP,2 and the MHP. Based on this perspective, the electoral results show a clear defeat of the MHP. Because the CHP, with 26 percent of the vote, doubled the electoral support the MHP was able to garner, while the AKP, the electoral victor, tripled its numbers with almost 50 percent of the vote. Worse, the independent candidates of the Kurdish political movement won 7 percent of the vote, securing 36 seats in parliament. The 2011 election results brought on further frustration for the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli. These results all but branded the MHP as the small party of Turkish politics, and as the party that needed and looked for coalitions without hope of winning an election independently.

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