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Devlet Bahçeli

Devlet Bahçeli
(1948), whose first name means "state", is the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), having ascended to the Party leadership after Türkeş’ death, and a founding member of the Grey Wolves.

The MHP’s website boasts that he “took on important duties in the training of idealist cadres”. After the 1999 General Election, Bahçeli became deputy prime minister as the MHP became a respected member of the coalition government.

Today, Bahçeli’s lifeline support for President Erdoğan has emboldened the MHP to pursue a more nationalist, anti-minority approach. They have been able to exert significant influence on Turkey's political direction. In April 2016, for example, during the Turkish army campaign in the Kurdish city of Nusaybin, Bahçeli made a speech urging the government to “level Nusaybin to ground and leave no one alive”.

Over two decades at the forefront of Turkish politics, Bahçeli has built surprising allegiances. Eight years ago, under fire from younger elements of the MHP, those newspapers and television channels that support President Erdoğan mounted a stern defence of Bahçeli.

Bahçeli has also supported efforts to establish Grey Wolves cells internationally. In 2017, he said that there were “5,000 idealist volunteers” prepared to fight in “Turkish cities where Turkmen live, especially [the Iraqi city of] Kirkuk.” Olcay Kılavuz, the chairman of the Grey Wolves between 2012-2018, claims to have been personally appointed by the former Deputy Prime Minister, suggesting he maintains close links to the paramilitary organisation. Bahçeli was re-elected to serve another term as Party leader at the MHP Congress in 2021.

When former Grey Wolves leader, and MHP rising star, Sinan Ates was murdered in December 2022, suspicions of a political connection to his death arose. These were heightened when Bahçeli neither published a message of condolence nor attended his funeral. Family members of Ates believe that his killers were “in the parliament.”