Former Istanbul Bar head stands as CHP leadership candidate
Former Istanbul Bar Association head Ümit Kocasakal has announced his candidacy for main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leadership in the upcoming party convention to be held on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in Ankara.
“I present my candidacy for CHP leadership, not only in my own name, Ümit Kocasakal, but also on behalf of millions of Republic and Atatürk lovers, those who are the real owners and the real base of this party and for those who miss their party,” Kocasakal said on Jan. 17 in a press conference announcing his leadership bid in Istanbul.
Leading the Istanbul Bar Association from 2010 to 2016, Kocasakal has been criticizing CHP leadership and CHP cadres for “drifting away from the founding principles” of the main opposition party, describing them as “Republican and Atatürkist values.”
“I give this statement as one of the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] and I am proud of it,” he said.
“We see that some people who do not correlate with the party’s chemistry and ideology are harming the party’s political identity” Kocasakal said.
“Those who say Atatürk was a non-Muslim, those who are critical of the phrase ‘we are the soldiers of Atatürk, those who have problems with the unitary structure [of Turkey] and those who sympathize with the Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP], cannot do politics in Atatürk’s party,” he added.
During his bar association head period, Kocasakal was a controversial name for his criticism of suspects in the case of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) urban wing giving their defense in their mother tongues.
Vowing to “return the CHP to its founding principles,” Kocasakal criticized dissident CHP members.
“My motto is for a CHP that has returned to its factory settings, to its identity, its founding principles; a CHP that voters will vote for with excitement,” he said.
The main opposition party will hold its 36th ordinary congress on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in Ankara.CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will be a candidate for the leadership for the seventh time in his eight-year leadership in the main opposition.
In previous congresses, only CHP lawmaker Muharrem İnce stepped up as a candidate in 2014 and lost the seat to Kılıçdaroğlu.
According to the CHP bylaw, 120 signatures out of the 1,100 delegate party are needed to be presented as a candidacy for leadership. The leader is elected with a secret ballot and a simple majority of votes.
CHP spokesman criticizes Kocasakal
CHP’s spokesman and deputy leader Bülent Tezcan criticized Kocasakal’s statements that the main opposition party has nearly lost its identity and that he was running for the leadership to fix it.
“Any member of the CHP can run for the leadership after securing the support of the 10 percent of the party delegates. But no one has the right to open an arbitrary discussion on the CHP’s positions,” Tezcan told reporters after the weekly decision-making body meeting on Jan 17.
“CHP’s missions are clear. The party’s identity is well explained at the party program. And today’s party administration has an understanding that does not drift apart even an inch from the party values,” he said.