CHP sticks with economic projects not ideology

CHP sticks with economic projects not ideology

Turkey’s social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has revealed another economic pledge, this time a strategic one with less than three weeks left before the critical June 7 elections.

CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in an Istanbul press conference on May 21 that the “Center Turkey” project aimed to gradually construct a “MegaCity” in Central Anatolia between 2020 and 2035 with a population of 3.5 million to serve as an international production and logistics center, to create 2.2 million new jobs and as a cure for inequality between the regions.

“That would help Turkey to break the mid-income and mid-technology trap which it is in,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “That would help the national income per capita reach $30,000 per year from the existing $10,000, if you vote for the CHP to come to power.”

The current polls do not promise the CHP will take the government from the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) for the time being. Kılıçdaroğlu recently said they were at just over 30 percent with an aim to reach 35 percent, which might be an ambitious goal to achieve in such a short time before the ballot box.

But what is important for the CHP is its persistence in sticking with the economic goals in its campaign instead of getting involved in an ideological fight with the AK Parti, as was the case in former elections.

The CHP’s shift to more social-democratic pledges and pragmatic projects instead of an ideological fight with the AK Parti has been one of the two main factors which has made President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu a bit nervous - the other one being the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) challenge of the 10 percent threshold to get into parliament.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s launching of the election campaign by promising two months of extra payments to retirees and a vow to increase the minimum wage from the current 950 Turkish Liras ($360) to 1500 liras ($560) a month caught the AK Parti unprepared and inspired both the HDP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to highlight their economic promises.

PM Davutoğlu and his government members have been spending a lot of energy since then to explain to employed and unemployed voters why they cannot pay them more, while the opposition members hit hard on extra spending, for example for the new presidential palace.

Both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have made an effort to drag the opposition parties back to the ideological struggle game which they know how to play best. The HDP, which is likely to determine the fate of the seat distribution in the parliament depending on whether it breaks the threshold, has the most vulnerable position because of having one of its main focuses on the Kurdish problem.

The CHP’s insistence on the social-democratic might be working well, since Davutoğlu’s first response was to say that it was actually his idea some 15 years ago, when he mentioned it briefly in his book titled “Strategic Depth.” Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan on the other hand, said Kılıçdaroğlu’s project was a fantasy.

But Enis Berberoğlu, the CHP’s deputy chairman in charge of communications and media, said AK Party officials are actually making CHP propaganda while spending lots of time on explaining to people why the CHP projects cannot be realized, which also showed how uncomfortable they are with the projects.