What does the CHP propose on the Kurdish issue?
Of course, these questions are particularly important because of the possibility that the CHP’s presidential candidate, Muharrem İnce, could stand against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the second round of elections on July 8. But more generally it is also important to learn what the CHP thinks of what is still Turkey’s most crucial problem.
The most important turning point in the CHP’s view of the Kurdish question was observed in the manifesto written for the 2011 elections, in which Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ran as CHP head for the first time.
The previous election manifesto of 2007 was mostly focused on security policies, without even mentioning the word “Kurdish.” The manifesto of 2011, however, witnessed some considerable openings in the party’s stance on the Kurdish question.
A promise to “overcome the obstacles preventing Kurdish citizens from expressing their identity via a pluralist and pro-freedom democracy” was one of the primary emphasis points in the manifesto. Elective Kurdish language courses were also offered, though the door was kept shut to Kurdish as an official medium of education.
The second critical step was the pledge to lift Turkey’s reservation on the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which was adopted under the auspices of the Congress of the Council of Europe. Although the charter was ratified by the Turkish Parliament in 1991, Ankara had placed strong reservations on articles that give local governments wider authorities, including the right to use financial resources and execute foreign relations.
If the charter had been fulfilled then the central government in Ankara would have renounced much of its authority over local administrations and opened the path for municipalities, including those in the southeastern provinces, to exercise much more power independent from the central government.
Ahead of the elections on June 7, 2015 the CHP took a significant step by releasing a report outlining the party’s policy. The report, although supporting the solution process initiated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in principal, criticized the methods and tools used in the process, instead prioritizing the role of parliament.
One of the remarkable points in the document was the emphasis on the “equal citizenship.” On the issue of the Kurdish language, removing obstacles to learning native languages other than the lingua franca, Turkish, was cited as a priority. A critical detail was the report’s reference to the “necessity of evaluating the framework of education in the mother tongues under the principals of pedagogy without any political prejudices.” For the first time ever, therefore, “education in the mother tongue” was mentioned in a document representing CHP policy.
The CHP’s most recent manifesto for the June 24 snap elections places new emphasis on “creating the sense of confidence in society and securing a social contract.” It also stresses “more freedom, democracy and the rule of law” in response to the terrorist attacks and escalating polarization of recent years.
In the manifesto, learning native languages is mentioned many times though there is no explicit reference to education in the mother tongue.
One of the most important points in the latest manifesto is the pledge to increase the autonomy of local governments to EU standards, which ultimately means repeating the promise to lift Turkey’s reservations on implementing the European Charter of Local Self-Government.