NICOSIA, Cyprus - Their symbol is a gray wolf, a mythical animal which, according to legend, led the ancient Turkomen tribe westward out of the turmoil and mysteries of central Asia.
The legend took a more concrete form in 1969 when a retired army colonel by the name of Alpaslan Turkes formed a political party pledged to a "greater Turkey" spreading from the Strait of Bosporus to the wall of China and marching in step behind its military leaders.
Today, 30 years later, the "gray wolves" of the National Action Party (MHP) are within reach of power.
Since its formation, the MHP, which initially was known as the popular Socialist Movement, has established considerable support in various state institutions, the security forces and the Interior Ministry.
With nearly 20 percent of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary election, the MHP is a potential member of the coalition government expected to be formed by veteran politician and four-time Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.
A liberal professing adherence to socialist principles, Mr. Ecevit cannot ignore what used to be an ultranationalist fringe party steeped in tradition and dreaming of new glory. Today's MHP is the product of modern Turkey's unsatisfied European ambitions and frustrations with political corruption and economic setbacks.
MHP preaches a revival of "national values" and supports "pan-Turanianism," or pan-Turkism, a belief according to which all Turkic people - including those in several former Soviet republics - are members of one nation.
While such an ambitious objective still appears elusive, MHP's participation in government would almost certainly exercise strong nationalist pressures on its internal and foreign policies.
After the election, the party confirmed its uncompromising stand against the Kurdish rebellion and caused concern in Europe about the Turkish government's future foreign policy, particularly in Greece, its traditional foe, and in the Greek sector of Cyprus.
It was Mr. Ecevit who, in 1974, ordered the Turkish army to seize 37 percent of Cypriot territory in response to a Greek coup on the island. MHP, his potential partner, firmly opposes any significant Turkish concessions in diplomatic efforts to restore the island's unity.
According to the Athens daily Kathimorini, the planned coalition government in Turkey "will probably make Turkey's rhetoric more aggressive and its diplomacy less flexible. …