CHP bracing for post-Kılıçdaroğlu era

CHP bracing for post-Kılıçdaroğlu era

Almost all journalists and party members who followed the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) convention over the weekend in Ankara agreed that it was probably the most low-spirited, dull party convention held in the last decade.

A major reason for that was the depression due to the results of the Nov. 1 elections, which gave the Justice and Development Party (AKP) the majority in parliament again following a brief “happy period” for the opposition after June 7 polls. The CHP members felt that being in power is a very distant possibility.

But another reason was that many party members did not have many expectations about what party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu would bring to the convention, and were focused on the race for the party administration instead. Unfortunately, the party leader failed to prove them wrong.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech at the convention was just like the ones he delivers in parliamentary group meetings every Tuesday. It was mostly a blind attack on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, without having much content on the current burning issues such as the Kurdish problem. 

But the members of the party were more direct with the issue, and the final statement of the convention approved by the delegates said the Kurdish problem cannot be solved only by security politics and urged the government to lift Ankara’s reservations on the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Kılıçdaroğlu gave vague messages of “change” both for his party and the country, without elaborating much, hence failing to become convincing. The delegates, however, gave their message much stronger: By leaving some of Kılıçdaroğlu’s closest aids out of the party assembly, the party’s top administrative body. 

Of the 52-member list presented by Kılıçdaroğlu, 29 were elected to the body, while 23 members were elected out of the “key list.” 

Add to that the 248 invalid votes cast in the election for the party leader, in which Kılıçdaroğlu was the sole candidate, and it does not take a genius to see that a storm is brewing over the CHP.

Kılıçdaroğlu has been working hard since his election in May, 2010 to steer the party towards libertarian polices instead of the former not-so-popular ones. The party, especially in the last two elections, put distribution of wealth and social policies in the core of its election campaigns, instead of slogans on the separation or Islamization of the country. 

But while doing that, Kılıçdaroğlu also tried to take a shortcut by inviting some right-wing politicians to the party to lure votes from the right, which backfired. The party members never fully embraced those new names, who also failed to bring in the much-needed votes.

One particular mistake by Kılıçdaroğlu was to support, ostensibly jointly with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the presidential elections in 2014 against Erdoğan. The MHP members barely moved a finger for İhsanoğlu’s campaign, leaving the entire job on CHP organizations, which somehow mobilized, though unwillingly. And İhsanoğlu now enjoys a parliamentary seat on the ranks of the MHP!

If no early election is held until the scheduled one in 2019, as Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş promised yesterday, last weekend’s convention was most probably the last one for Kılıçdaroğlu.  Many party members have already plans ready for after his departure, signaling that a tough inner party struggle is in the pipelines.

“Change” never comes easy and the CHP is no exception.