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The ‘gray wolf’ threat to Erdogan and the AKP

Prime Minister Erdogan’s fears about the ultranationalist MHP may come true in the upcoming elections.
Supporters of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) make the grey wolf sign of the party as they wait for the arrival of party leader Devlet Bahceli during a rally in Istanbul October 5, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS ) - RTR3FMK7

During the first weeks of the Gezi protests in June 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan organized five major “Respect the National Will” rallies. I was watching one of them with a group of “ultranationalist” friends. They belong to the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. Many of them had supported the Gezi protests. As we were watching Erdogan’s rally, all of a sudden Erdogan said, “I want to thank my brothers from the MHP.”

Cameras zoomed to a corner in the crowd, and MHP flags with three crescents on a red banner were raised. My friends ("gray wolves" as I joke with them; the term is used to symbolize militant Turkish ultranationalism) were in a state of shock to see MHP members in the crowd raise their flags and wave them for the cameras as Erdogan asked. In the next couple of weeks, we kept seeing MHP images, slogans and banners “supporting” Erdogan in the matter of the Gezi protests. Intriguingly MHP Chairman Devlet Bahceli echoed the comments of several other CHP members by saying, “No MHP members were at Erdogan’s rallies; these were staged events by the AKP (Justice and Development Party)." Erdogan’s reply to Bahceli was to say, “Would it be wrong if I called MHP members “my brothers”? Would it be wrong to call Saadet (Felicity) Party members my brothers?” (The Felicity Party is a small Islamist party that refused to be absorbed by the AKP).

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