CHP leader: Erdoğan has no chance for the presidential system

CHP leader: Erdoğan has no chance for the presidential system

Murat Yetkin
CHP leader: Erdoğan has no chance for the presidential system

CREDIT: Ziya Köseoğlu / CHP Genel Merkezi

“He has no chance left for a shift to the presidential system,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), while gesturing with his right hand as if he was sweeping away dust in the air. We were talking on board a hired plane on May 15 flying from Ankara to the southern city of Kahramanmaraş, where the CHP had scheduled a rally for the June 7 elections.

Kılıçdaroğlu was talking about President Tayyip Erdoğan’s aggressive campaign to secure a parliamentary majority after the elections large enough to change the constitution to switch to a presidential system with more executive powers, instead of the current parliamentary one.

“Erdoğan has started to make fun of peoples’ values,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, elaborating on what he said. “It is Turkish society that made Erdoğan the prime minister three times and then the president. But that is not enough for him. He is always asking for more. He has started to live a luxurious life in a palace with more than 1,000 rooms, in a country where 17 million people live in poverty. The British prime minister lives in 10 Downing Street and he steps right out onto the street. Is Turkey a country richer than the U.K.?”

The CHP leader also claims that Erdoğan has started to see that reality from the decreasing enthusiasm of the people he is addressing, but continues to campaign on behalf of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). “Actually this is humiliating for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “But he neither has the will nor the power to stop Erdoğan from doing it.”

In Kahramanmaraş, the AK Parti had a crushing victory in the 2011 elections with nearly 70 percent of the votes, winning six of the eight seats allocated for the city in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament. The CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won one seat each. Kılıçdaroğlu hopes the CHP can get one more on June 7.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s next stop May 15, Gaziantep, is the trade, industry and cultural center of the region. It also has strategic importance as it borders civil war-struck Syria. The registered number of refugees in camps in and around Gaziantep - which are praised as the best in the world by UNDP head Helen Clark - is over 300,000. But the real number in and around the city is estimated as half a million, putting immense pressure on the economy and social life of the city with a population of 1.5 million.

This picture gives Kılıçdaroğlu hope that the CHP could double its seats in Gaziantep to four. The province sends 12 deputies to parliament. After winning 62 percent of Gaziantep’s vote in the 2011 elections, nine of the deputies are from the AK Parti and one is from the MHP. The other two belong to the CHP. 

This time there is also the “HDP factor” of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party. If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent national threshold, the distribution of seats could change significantly.

Kılıçdaroğlu keeps pressing on the economic situation and keeps making pledges. Merve Altınbaş, the youngest CHP candidate in Gaziantep and a bright female lawyer, claims their pledges on retirement pensions and subsidies for farmers in particular are resonating among voters. The CHP leader hopes the interest he has been seeing from people since the beginning of the campaign could turn into votes and push his party to over 30 percent, from its current 25-26 percent.

He is keeping secret a “trump card” that he plans to announce on May 21 in Istanbul, two weeks before election day. He calls it the “Project of the Century.” One of our colleagues asks whether it will be like Erdoğan’s “crazy project” to build a new channel in parallel with the Bosphorus between the Black Sea and the Marmara, which was proposed four years ago but has yet to be launched. 

“No,” Kılıçdaroğlu answered, “Ours will be rational and transparently budgeted.”