Kılıçdaroğlu’s second front: Party congresses
A polemic between the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over the latter’s alleged financial transactions has been ongoing for some time.
On Nov. 28 at a meeting in parliament, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s close circle, including his brother, his son and his executive assistant, of making transactions worth around $15 million to an off-shore company in December 2011 and January 2012.
On Nov. 30, Kılıçdaroğlu revealed receipts and swift documents to the public. And on Dec. 4, CHP Deputy Group Chair Özgür Özel gave signals that Kılıçdaroğlu would come up with a new claim during a group meeting the next day.
The rhetoric used by the AKP makes it seem as though Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims have definitely been refuted. The AKP has such a loud voice in this polemic that claims by the CHP go unheard, mostly because the AKP has refuted the accusations so vociferously.
On the CHP front, apart from Kılıçdaroğlu and a handful of names within the party’s management, nobody seems to be truly embracing the issue.
Erdoğan must have been informed about this, because during a speech over the weekend in the eastern province of Muş, he said that only a “small clique within the CHP” actually believe Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims. He also suggested that the CHP was searching for a new leader to replace Kılıçdaroğlu for the 2019 elections.
When we look at the ongoing process of the CHP’s local congresses, we see there are developments that may give credence to Erdoğan.
Istanbul congresses being postponed
Recently, all district and provincial congresses of the CHP in Istanbul have been postponed. These postponements come amid claims that the party’s provincial heads have changed representative lists that emerged from district congresses.
Behind the scenes at the CHP headquarters, it is said that Kılıçdaroğlu has learned about this and ordered for the congresses to be postponed.
In the meantime, the congress process is continuing in Ankara and we see some strong old names of the CHP joining a team against Kılıçdaroğlu.
The provinces of Ankara, Istanbul and İzmir have an important “representative” load in the CHP’s general assembly, and the teams who control these provinces can effectively define the party’s central council, and thus its Central Board of Directors (MYK), deputies and mayor candidates.
This stirring of the pot in the CHP is going on at a time when the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is aligned with President Erdoğan and is working to form an alliance.
The Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), meanwhile, is struggling to contend with mass arrests of its members, including co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
As a result, the CHP is left as the only opposition party in parliament at present. But the CHP is instead focusing much of its efforts on internal party politics.
Kılıçdaroğlu has so far taken a humble attitude amid this kind of internal competition. But his recent interference in the Istanbul congress has shown that he can also display a firm stance.
AKP mayors and provincial heads have recently been resigning from their duties at the request of President Erdoğan, the party leader. Their replacement is determined by municipal councils, where only one candidate is appointed by the AKP’s general headquarters.
Under these circumstances, let’s see if the “internal party democracy” platform, which the CHP has always been proud of, will go beyond a simple “competition to collect representatives.” Will it be able to create the kind of energy that aims to reach government?