Turkish opposition CHP under pressure to change

Turkish opposition CHP under pressure to change

It is not only President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is going to reshape his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) before he leaves the job on Aug. 28. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also wants to reshape his party by replacing its old guard with new and active young warriors.

Kılıçdaroğlu is under attack by an in-house opposition, which has called on him to resign because of the failure in the presidential elections. It was mainly Kılıçdaroğlu’s choice to support a non-partisan candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu together with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) as a presidential candidate against Erdoğan. He is now under criticism by the “patriotic” wing of the party, who actually resist any updates of the traditional policies of the CHP. They were supportive of a Kemalist candidate to be shown by CHP, regardless of the outcome of the elections, against Kılıçdaroğlu’s choice for a center-right İhsanoğlu, the former secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Observing that the calls for his resignation had little echo within the CHP, especially since the country is heading for parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015, Kılıçdaroğlu seems determined to call for a party congress in order to challenge the chronic opposition, who he accuses of “not working in the field, but talking all of the time against party interests.” But as a tactic, perhaps to get rid of them, Kılıçdaroğlu is likely to announce the Congress officially after it becomes clear the in-house opposition is not able to collect enough signatures to even call for a congress.

Kılıçdaroğlu most probably will use the situation as an opportunity to update not only the party organization with new and younger individuals, but also be more open to new ideas, like a European-style social democratic party. It is another question whether he will be able to do that. But the parliamentary elections could give him an additional stepping stone.

The first party executive meeting regarding the parliamentary elections was convened Aug. 13 and a series of measures have already been discussed, according to ranking party sources. That includes a special team of, mostly younger, 25 members of Parliament to start field work in constituencies in order to tell and discuss the CHP’s projects with people, rather than making anti-Erdoğan propaganda.

Another and more detailed CHP meeting will reportedly convene on Aug. 17 about the coming elections, including possible alliances to exercise a viable alternative to Erdoğan’s AK Parti government, which by then will be led by another person under the supervision of Erdoğan as president.