CHP aims to be in Turkey’s next government

CHP aims to be in Turkey’s next government

“I dedicate this election manifesto to the youth,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sept. 30, addressing thousands at a party gathering in Ankara. Members of the party’s youth branch were placed on two sides of the stage where he was delivering his speech.

With the CHP being the first party to announce its election manifesto for the Nov. 1 re-election, Kılıçdaroğlu wants to win the hearts and minds of young voters, who make up almost half of the population in Turkey. Not only are there 6 million-plus university students, but the country’s out-of-work and unemployed youth rate is among the worst in the OECD. 

“Eighty percent of all workers in Turkey are working on the minimum wage: 1,054 Turkish Liras [$347] per month,” said Kılıçdaroğlu. “And 80 percent of all minimum wage earners are young men and women,” he added, before repeating his promise before the June 7 election to increase the minimum wage almost 50 percent to 1,500 TL a month ($493) if the CHP comes to office. “I know it will not be a big achievement, but at least it will give everyone some relief,” he said.

The CHP head then listed a number of election promises. These promises were not only to young people, but also to workers, farmers, the unemployed, and the business community (“If they want to criticize the CHP when the CHP is in government, they can do so freely,” he said). The pledges together amounted to a typical European-style social democratic program, marking a clear shift from the nationalist-leaning CHP of five years ago when Kılıçdaroğlu was first elected.

“In return, I ask for one thing from the young men and women of Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “Please get involved in politics. Get involved in politics and clean it of dinosaurs. I invite you to be members of the CHP in the easiest way: Just register using our website.” These remarks raised the eyebrows of some gray-haired old-guard CHP members, who have spent decades out of government.

Kılıçdaroğlu also raised the bar in another important issue - in fact the most important political issue in Turkey. “It is the CHP, the founder party of the republic, that can solve the Kurdish problem through social reconciliation - neither through security-focused policies nor through secret talks with non-transparent agendas, but in parliament,” he said. “Out of the four parties in parliament, the CHP seems to be the only one for now that can both clearly condemn the terrorist acts of the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, deny the government’s current security-based line, and call for a political solution to the Kurdish problem in parliament.”

At the end of his 1-hour 20-minute presentation of the manifesto, the CHP youth branch members encircled Kılıçdaroğlu on the podium, chanting slogans like “Power, power!”

Still, opinion polls do not point to the CHP winning power in the Nov. 1 election. Kılıçdaroğlu himself has said he was happy to see some polls showing the CHP at 30 percent. But it is clear that he is preparing the CHP to share power in a coalition, probably with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), if the outcome of the Nov. 1 re-election is similar to the result on June 7 and the AK Parti is also unable to form a government on its own. In his address yesterday, Kılıçdaroğlu said it was President Tayyip Erdoğan’s influence on PM Davutoğlu that ruined coalition talks between the two parties after June 7. 

The aim for the new election is also obvious from the CHP’s campaign slogan. On July 7, its slogan was “Vote [for us] so they go away.” Now it is “Turkey first.” This may mean that the CHP could be open for reconciliation with its rival depending on the outcome of the election 30 days from now.