CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu bracing for a power test

CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu bracing for a power test

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu bracing for a power test

This file photo shows Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (L) speaking to former CHP secretary-general Önder Sav during a party convention. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The main opposition’s Feb. 26 convention is becoming a de facto vote of confidence for Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu that will either strengthen his grip on the party or lay the ground for further cracks.
Even though reforms to the party statute constitute the only agenda of the convention, the number in which Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies will turn up at the Ankara Arena would indicate how much support Kılıçdaroğlu could expect within the party.

He would take a serious blow if the delegates heed leading dissident Önder Sav’s boycott call and not more than 700 of the delegates show up at the convention. “If that happens, Kılıçdaroğlu cannot ignore Önder Sav. If he does ignore him, the party will suffer serious cracks,” a CHP source close to former leader Deniz Baykal said.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s objective is to succeed in amending the statute and cement his leadership at the party’s regular convention later this year. His plan is to ensure that he determines the membership of the party assembly without any pressure for the first time and strengthen his hand at the helm. The intra-party opposition, for its part, aspires to thwart the convention and send out a message that Kılıçdaroğlu has failed to unite the party.

The attendance of at least 625 of the 1,248 delegates is required for the convention to go ahead. CHP veteran Sav has encouraged delegates to boycott the gathering and accused Kılıçdaroğlu of mismanagement.

Kılıçdarıoğlu has tasked his deputy Gürsel Tekin with the mission of luring as many delegates as possible to the convention. Party sources say more than 800 delegates have checked in at Ankara hotels as of Feb. 22. “Those who are hoping for a row will fail,” Tekin said yesterday.

Dissidents alarmed

The dissidents, led by Sav and backed tacitly by the Baykal clique, are alarmed the convention could become a critical turning point in “cleansing” their group from the party’s influential posts. They are estimated to be backed by about 400 of the delegates. Delegates selected by Sav and Baykal will be gone when the regular convention is held in the summer for chairmanship elections.

Sav’s clique has called on delegates to go not to the Ankara Arena but to Anıtkabir on the morning of Feb. 26 in a bid to enforce their message with a visual illustration of divisions. Baykal, for his part, is reportedly inclined to shun the convention so as “not to be part of this regretful picture.”

Kılıçdaroğlu yesterday dismissed speculation over the convention, which is to be followed by another one Feb. 27 on the request of dissidents. “Any move to prevent the attendance of delegates is unacceptable,” he said. k HDN