The Nationalist Movement Party (also translated as 'Nationalist Action Party') (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP), is a nationalist, conservative political party in Turkey. In the July 22, 2007 legislative elections, the party won 14.3% of the national vote and 71 seats in the parliament . In the previous legislative elections of Nov. 3, 2002 the party gained no seats as it had only won 8.3% of the national vote.
Although the MHP has been labelled as an extremist nationalistic party by left-wing and Kurdish separatist groups, the present leadership by individuals such as Devlet Bahçeli and Mehmet Şandır has focused on defending unitary state and a Turkish identity encompassing all of Turkey's citizens in the face of demands for a federal state reflecting regional ethnic differences. It maintains consistent support among the electorate (especially in Central Anatolia), and has been on good terms with the Turkish Establishment due to its emphasis on a national identity that had been proposed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to replace tribal, sectarian, and ethnic allegiances that had been prevalent in Anatolia during the Ottoman Empire.
By 1965, Alparslan Türkeş gained control of the conservative-rural Republican Villagers Nation Party (Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi, CKMP), and in a 1969 congress in Adana he confirmed his authoritarian rule and changed the name of the party to MHP. The party embraced Turkish nationalism imbued with a mythology that suggests all Turks share a common ancestry. Under the leadership of Alparslan Türkeş and funded by the CIA as part of its anti-Communist activities, militias connected to the party were responsible for assassinating many left-leaning people during the 1970s.
When the Turkish army seized power on September 12, 1980 by a coup led by Kenan Evren, the party was banned along with all other active political parties at the time, and many of its leading members were imprisoned. Many prominent members joined neo-liberal Anavatan Partisi or various Islamist currents. A party member (Agâh Oktay Güner) defined this time period as the party ideology was ruling whereas the party members were imprisoned. The party later was refounded in 1983 as Muhafazakar Parti (Conservative Party).After in 1985, the name changed to Milliyetçi Çalışma Partisi (Nationalist Task Party) and took its former name again in 1992.
After Türkeş's death in 1997, under the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, MHP tried to present itself as a moderate right-wing party. They also began to reach out to practicing Muslim. The party promised to end the ban on females wearing the hijab at government institutions (most pertinent at universities and a very contentious issue in Turkish politics), the opening of Qur'an schools and its mandatory teaching and a number of other measures that would appeal to Muslims.
At the 1999 general election, held after Öcalan's capture and at a time when nationalist sentiment was high, promising to have Öcalan hanged, they became the second leading party, with about 18% of the national vote, highest in their history. They were later forced into a coalition with the Demokratik Sol Parti (Democratic Left Party) DSP and the Anavatan Partisi (ANAP) by the army and also forced to drop their 'religious' manifesto. MHP also had a female candidate, Nesrin Ünal, who wore a headscarf and claimed that if they won the elections she would proudly enter parliament with her scarf; however, she declined to wear it when elected deputy of Antalya. The coalition government did not last long (until 2002) and an economic collapse resulted in many losing what faith they had in MHP. In the subsequent election, the religious AKP won by a landslide and MHP failed to gain the necessary 10% to enter parliament. In the general elections of 2007, however, MHP received 14.3% of the national vote, regaining a sizable representation in parliament.