The worrying state of opposition politics
The politics of the main opposition party have long been defined by an “egoism of small differences” and personal rifts rather than efforts to challenge the opposite camp of conservatists, Islamists and right wing nationalists. Once again, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is almost torn by the fight between supporters of its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and his rival presidential candidate Muharrem İnce, who calls for change.
This time, it is more about the personal rivalry between these two men who lead the party, as most recently, both right wingers and some self-styled leftists have united to support the status quo against those who demand change.
As it is still a bit unclear what exactly İnce’s supporters mean by “change,” it is totally unclear what unites former Islamists and right wingers who are transferred to the party by Kılıçdaroğlu and those left wingers who criticize İnce for not being leftist enough. Although it is true İnce does not sound like an ideological politician and seems to be rather pragmatic, it was him after all who voted against the ruling party’s proposal to remove parliamentary immunities.
Kılıçdaroğlu and most of his supporters voted in favor of the move, which led to the imprisonment of Kurdish politicians. While Kılıçdaroğlu has kept silent about Kurdish politics out of fear of being labelled unpatriotic since, İnce visited the jailed leader of Kurdish party, Selahattin Demirtaş. Even if it was a pragmatic gesture, it broke the taboo of engaging with Kurdish politicians.
Finally, it was İnce who won considerable support, unseen in the history of the CHP in the last three decades. Nevertheless, the CHP seems to be happy to confine its efforts within the limits of localities, which are taken for granted, and vested interests in some mayorships seem to hinder the change in national politics.
The internal affairs of political parties are far from democratic and ranks are determined by the leader. As a result, personal loyalty to the leadership defines the fate of lawmakers and other administrators in all parties. It is no surprise then that those who are promoted by the leadership fear change, since it may change their political status. The CHP is no exception at all. On the contrary, internal politics are even “more vicious” in the CHP “since assets are so small,” as Kissinger once coined for academic politics.
I have always been convinced the democratic deficit is not only about the ruling parties but also reflects the problems and weaknesses of the opposition camp. The changes, which finally ended the parliamentary regime, did not happen overnight. It was the culmination of the ruling party’s efforts to settle the presidential system. It was also the responsibility of the opposition camp, which is mainly formed by Republican and Kurdish politics, to challenge and hinder the process and they failed.
As long as opposition parties and circles refuse to acknowledge their own mistakes and insist on holding others solely responsible for political consequences, the direction of politics in Turkey will remain the same or worse. As for the Kurdish opposition, they too have problems and weaknesses other than state repression and they too are very reluctant to acknowledge their failures. Under the circumstances, it seems the opposition camp will be weakened further before the local elections.