CHP promotes itself in US as the alternative in Turkey

CHP promotes itself in US as the alternative in Turkey

“And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments, provided they govern with respect for all their people. This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.”

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) entered his Brookings Institution presentation on Dec. 2 with this rather long quotation from U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo University on June 4, 2009. There were no Arab Spring revolts then, Hosni Mubarak was still in power, Obama had already paid his first overseas visit to Turkey, addressing the Turkish Parliament in April and Francis Ricciardone, the current U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, had recently completed his office as the U.S. Ambassador to Cairo.

After reading the quote, “The circumstances describe not only Cairo but elsewhere in the region,” Kılıçdaroğlu commented boldly, “President Obama was right.” In the first edition of the text of the speech, Kılıçdaroğlu was supposed to say “More Ankara, than Cairo” as an open reference to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s “election victory is everything approach,” but it seems he changed that in order to avoid Erdoğan’s “defaming Turkey” criticisms once again.

During his presentation under the subtitles of “strong democracy, strong economy and responsible foreign policy” Kılıçdaroğlu said another thing an American audience having an interest in Turkey would like to hear: A free and transparent economy, rule of law with independent courts, freedom of expression and press and a working democracy in a secular but Muslim country. He also expressed loyalty to Turkish commitments to NATO, other Western institutions and Turkey’s membership target to the European Union.

His speech is not likely to please Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government at all. Erdoğan has already been complaining of Kılıçdaroğlu’s alternative diplomacy going on for nearly a year in the Middle East, Europe and now in the U.S., where Erdoğan’s image is not as before, mainly because of two reasons. One of them is Erdoğan’s stance regarding the Gezi Park wave of protests in the summer of 2013, where he developed a defensive position against criticisms of developing an authoritarian attitude versus demands of limitations of freedoms and intervention into lifestyles. The other is the belief in the U.S. capital that his rhetoric becomes more anti-Semitic, the last example being his accusation of Israel to be behind the July 3rd coup in Egypt, where the military toppled the elected Muslim Brotherhood member President Mohamed Morsi, who had been elected after the toppling of Mubarak.

Perhaps that gives another reason for the AK Parti to be upset because of Kılıçdaroğlu meeting with Jewish lobby groups in DC. Salih Kapusuz of the AK Parti claimed the purpose of the CHP leader’s visit to the U.S. was actually to establish contact with the “Jewish lobby and the American deeper state,” reminding of conspiracy theories when Erdoğan and his team had contacted Richard Perle and some members of Jewish lobby in order to let themselves be known by the American political circles before gaining power in the 2002 elections.

“It’s good to see you here. Come more often,” the U.S. president's special assistant for European affairs, Karen Donfried, told Kılıçdaroğlu, during a rare occasion in which opposition leaders are welcomed at the White House.

According to a CHP source, she asked how the CHP was planning to win in the upcoming elections and what they thought about the government’s “democratization” package, which Kılıçdaroğlu said they found “insufficient.” She also posed questions about the CHP's policies on Iran and Israel.

What the CHP is saying on Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt are already closer to U.S. policies than the Erdoğan government.

Kılıçdaroğlu wants to promote the “new CHP” as a Western oriented, modernist alternative to the Erdoğan government in Turkey, as the country heads for a series of three elections in the next 18 months, in other fields than foreign policy as well. An international conference on economy, organized by world renown Turkish economist Kemal Derviş, also a member of Brookings, in Istanbul on Dec. 8-9 where Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to be the keynote speaker is a part of the promotion plan; that could be to open a new page with Turkish business circles, which has always kept a certain distance between them and the CHP. It is, of course, the Turkish voters who are to determine who the next parliament and government will be formed of, and perhaps that is why Kılıçdaroğlu is trying to give all necessary signals in his efforts to drag his party to a more centrist position.