More infighting looming ahead for CHP over İhsanoğlu’s nomination
Members of the Republican Women Association hold a press conference in front of the Turkish Parliament calling on CHP deputies to collect 20 signatures to nominate CHP deputy Emine Ülker Tarhan for the presidential post.On a day when five political parties have displayed yet another symbolic show of solidarity for Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu’s presidential candidacy, infighting within the Republican People’s Party (CHP) continues.
The largest of those parties, the CHP, seems to promise more tension due to the uneasiness among the neo-nationalist camp that considers İhsanoğlu a complete contradiction with the principle of secularity.
The CHP, which casts itself the role of guarding the principle of secularity, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which self-styles itself as the foremost guardian of nationalism – the two major parties represented at Parliament – have nominated İhsanoğlu as a “joint candidate” representing “a grand conciliation” among various segments of the society.
CHP Deputy Chair Erdoğan Toprak and MHP Deputy Chair Ruhsar Demirel handed over a joint declaration of support signed by leaders of the CHP and the MHP, as well as by three opposition parties who are not represented at Parliament – Democratic Left Party (DSP), Democrat Party (DP) and Independent Turkey Party (BTP) – to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) July 3.
Elsewhere in Ankara, however, CHP Eskişehir deputy Süheyl Batum, a member of the neo-nationalist camp within the party that favors Emine Ülker Tarhan’s presidential candidacy, has warned against the permanent and long-term impacts of İhsanoğlu’s candidacy over the grassroots of the party. Batum also indicated that İhsanoğlu’s candidacy may backfire, leading up to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election as president outright in the first round of elections on Aug. 10.
“We should not have learned [the name of] our presidential candidate who will be directly elected by the people for the first time in our history. Should not have our 90-year-old CHP, founded by Atatürk, been different than Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party? Furthermore, wasn’t it obligatory?” Batum said in a written statement released July 3.
Without elaborating, Batum noted that nominating Tarhan for presidential candidacy is “an individual decision of theirs,” indicating that it was not Tarhan’s own initiative.
“I extend my good wishes to our leader [Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu] who designated İhsanoğlu and to our friends who signed in favor of him. However, I hope that this individual choice of theirs and their will for historical reconciling with the conservative population does not lead up to permanent damage on the CHP’s grassroots. Additionally, [I hope] intolerance for another candidate does not lead up to a decrease in participation, resulting in electing the competitor in the first round,” Batum said, referring to Erdoğan, who will run as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate in the presidential elections.
At Parliament, another warning, this time by the party leadership, was delivered by CHP Deputy Chair Haluk Koç, who underlined that İhsanoğlu should not be categorized as “the CHP’s candidate.”
“We understand [the criticism from within the party] as a requirement of democracy and we are continuing to do so. It is extremely natural. Ekmel Bey is not a candidate designated according to its own line of any political party. CHP’s bylaw, program and principles are obvious. These cannot be changed and discussed without having a congressional decision. Who is diverting from which principle and who is giving concessions from which program?” Koç, also the spokesperson for the party, said.
“We expect all of our friends to give a leg up for this joint responsibility vis-à-vis these realities and exert the effort that will rescue Turkey from the hands of ‘the incompetent greed,’” Koç added, referring to Prime Minister Erdoğan.
İhsanoğlu is a diplomat and academic who was at the helm of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for nine years until 2014 and, at the time, worked closely with the Erdoğan government.
The choice of Cairo-born İhsanoğlu, who has dedicated a large part of his life to promoting Islam, has drawn fierce criticism from some diehard secularists within the CHP, with several refusing to sign his formal nomination. The group has been trying to collect signatures from 20 deputies in order to nominate Tarhan, as 20 is the least number required to do so.