Dissidents within CHP liken its leader to ‘sultan’

Dissidents within CHP liken its leader to ‘sultan’

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Dissidents within CHP liken its leader to ‘sultan’

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) organized its latest extraordinary convention on Dec 11, 2010 in Ankara. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Dissidents within the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said yesterday that their drive to convene an extraordinary congress is aimed at reforms to curb the powers of the chairman, not at toppling him.

“The chairman of a party which claims to be left-wing and democratic should not have such extensive powers like a sultan. People are being dismissed within seconds and replaced by others. We want an end to arbitrary dismissals,” CHP lawmaker İsa Gök, a high-profile figure in the inter-party opposition, said yesterday.

Gök said collecting the necessary 350 signatures from delegates to demand the extraordinary congress was easier than they expected and this reflected a widespread desire within the CHP to amend the party statute.

“This has nothing to do with a chairmanship race. On the contrary, we want the chairman to keep his promises [to make the statute more democratic],” he said.

The opponents of chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, backed mainly by former secretary-general Önder Sav, collected 360 signatures from the 1,250 party delegates to force an extraordinary congress to amend the statute and formally submitted the application to the party headquarters.

Kılıçdaroğlu has already said he will not shy away from a congress. He may not even wait for the 45 days to convene the congress as party rules allow, opting instead to call it within two or three weeks, CHP sources said. The party administration would submit its own proposal for statute changes, they added.

The reforms demanded by the dissidents include the holding of primary elections for party candidates in general and local elections, increased financial support for the party’s provincial branches, and a reduction in the number of signatures that are required for holding elections for a new chairman.

The last demand has fuelled mistrust that the dissidents are not sincere in their call for democratization. Their immediate aim is to secure the convention of a congress and then maneuver to force a chairmanship election aimed at toppling Kılıçdaroğlu, party sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. Suspicions are rife that the dissidents will attempt to force a second convention if they succeed in amending the party statute in the way they want.

The tensions within the CHP have been fuelled by an ideological rift. In the party’s backrooms, disgruntled members had long grumbled that “the party is being pushed toward the liberal-left.” The discontent surfaced publicly in November when Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün issued statements holding the CHP responsible for the Dersim killings in the late 1930s. Twelve deputies accused the party’s administration of “turning a blind eye to attempts to transform and alter the CHP.”