CHP deputy regrets his party’s failure to attract workers
Okan Konuralp ANKARA
Özgür Özel carries miner boots during a parliamentary session. DHA PhotoA lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has acknowledged his party’s failure in reaching out to the laborer class of Turkey, as well as in becoming the ruling party of the country.
CHP deputy Özgür Özel further stated conditions are ripe for the rule of a social-democrat party and such a change in the government would raise the issue of laborers’ rights.
“With Soma and other cases, I’ve been thinking that the responsibility in the death of the miners falls on shoulders of the CHP, as well as on the ruling party because the party that would bring safety to the mines, would consider laborers’ health and provide the world’s labor safety standards for the laborers is a leftist party. We are also responsible for not being able to come to power, for not giving priority to these issues. Politics is, in the end, a matter of designating priorities, in its best definition,” Özel said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.
Özel is a deputy from the western Anatolian province of Manisa, where the district of Soma is located. He has been under the spotlight since the May 13 coal mine disaster in the Soma mine that killed 301 miners, marking the worst industrial accident in the nation’s history.
Özel submitted a motion to Parliament in the fall of 2013 to investigate work-related accidents at coal mines in Soma, but it was rejected by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) two weeks prior to the disaster.
Still, Özel said having submitted that motion even months before the disaster was not sufficient relief to have a clear conscience.
“A solution should have been found before coming to this point,” he said.
What the CHP needs to come into power is to believe in its own cadres, Özel responded when asked about his earlier remarks about the CHP’s responsibility and what kind of a change was needed within the CHP.
“The CHP should have been producing something through universal leftist values and transforming its own grassroots through convincing the people. If the AKP is the first party in mind in a place like Soma, then I have learned my lesson from Soma and the CHP has learned its lesson, too,” Özel elaborated.
“In mines, there are still mine wagons on which ‘Karaoğlan’ is written,” Özel said.
In the 1970s, late then-CHP leader Bülent Ecevit was nicknamed “Karaoğlan” (Black Boy) by the masses. Such embracement by the people was widely considered as a reflection of a very strong bond and interaction between the party leadership and the masses, uniquely achieved by Ecevit as a leftist leader who attached importance to mingling with laborers and peasants and visiting the outskirts to be familiar with the daily troubles of the ordinary people.
“We went from miners who write ‘Karaoğlan,’ on wagons, to a prime minister who kicks miners,” Özel said, in an apparent reference to a May 14 incident when only a day after the disaster, prime ministerial aide Yusuf Yerkel was photographed kicking a grieving protester during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial visit to the disaster-struck town.
Another man, who was allegedly slapped by Erdoğan during the same visit, later said the gesture was intended to protect him from the bodyguards.
“But the CHP has also missed this. A more leftist CHP shall not be shy about the laborer class; it shall not sit back when the issue is the unions’ struggle and shall take more, different steps regarding the Kurdish issue,” Özel said.