CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu: Gov’t cannot deter us from objections

CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu: Gov’t cannot deter us from objections

“I know what the government is trying to do,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), on the phone on April 21. Referring to President Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), he said they were “trying to deter us from appealing to the courts and protecting the democratic rights of the people regarding the April 16 referendum results.”

We had that telephone conversation shortly after the CHP appealed to the Council of State (Danıştay) following the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) rejection of the party’s appeal to cancel the referendum result over claims of voting irregularities that allegedly could have changed the outcome. Some 51.4 percent approved the shift to the executive presidential system and 48.6 percent voted against it. 

Lawyers for the CHP said they had appealed to the Council of State because the YSK decision was not a court ruling but rather an administrative action, which cannot be above the law. The CHP has also said it will support the use of people’s individual application right to both the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if necessary.

“We are not going to give up protecting the democratic right of the people,” said Kılıçdaroğlu. “Some 49 million citizens cast their votes but there is a shadow on the vote because of what the YSK did. Despite a clear statement in the Election Law, the YSK stated during the vote counting process that unsealed ballots would be counted as valid.”

“Over 23 million people voted against the constitutional changes and they now have doubts about the fairness of the result directly because of that YSK decision. In today’s Turkey a regular citizen may not be able to claim their right to vote because they are deterred by the possible consequences of it. Both industrialists and workers can be deterred from claiming their rights. Someone has to speak up for them. Someone has to speak up for the rights of not only ‘yes’ voters but for all 49 million who cast their votes and fulfilled their duty as citizens. All our votes have been cheated, not just those of ‘no’ voters. Claiming one’s right is not a crime and we’re doing exactly that, no matter what they say and no matter how they manipulate the institutions.”

The CHP head also addressed criticism of him for not vocally supporting the street protests after the referendum. 

“People have the right to protest the unfair YSK decision, so long as they are peaceful and do not resort to violence. Any violence will cause them to lose their legitimacy, but otherwise peaceful protest is a democratic right. There may be CHP members among the protesters, but as an institution the CHP is not involved in street protests. We protect the rights of people on parliamentary political grounds,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

President Erdoğan had told private broadcaster A Haber on April 20 that the “game is over” and the CHP should simply digest the result of the referendum. He was responded to on April 21 by former CHP head Deniz Baykal, who said “the game is not over, perhaps only the first half. The game will be over in the 2019 general election.”

As for Kılıçdaroğlu, he pointed out that the “no” campaign had managed to reach out to voters beyond the CHP’s typical base of around 25 percent, adding that the party is now searching for a new strategy to sustain this. 

“After April 22 we will have a series of meetings with our party executives and our group in parliament. We will be ready for a general election as if it could be held tomorrow,” he said.