The CHP should be more helpful

The CHP should be more helpful

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is right to complain about the insufficient support he is getting from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), as his government plows on – despite overt and covert attempts at obstruction – with efforts to negotiate an end to the campaign of terror by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Having vowed “to drink poison hemlock” for the sake of peace, Erdoğan has little choice but to push forward, of course. It is also clear that Erdoğan will have broadened his support base if he succeeds. This is crucial for him at a time when he has grand political schemes in the pipeline for Turkey, one of which is to get himself popularly elected as an executive president.

Perhaps this is what the CHP is really worried about. Whatever the case may be, the CHP gives the impression that it is playing its familiar game of pandering to the outmoded Kemalist nationalism of its old guard, which is more suited to the 1930s than today. It clearly hopes to garner support for itself by presenting the current efforts with the PKK in a bad light every time an opportunity arises.

This, however, is also seriously out of tune with the CHP’s claim to be a social democratic party, and it must be remembered that it is a member of the Socialist International today. Despite this claim, however, the CHP even harbors overtly racist deputies who fail to see the “faux pas” in coming out with statements to the effect that “the Turkish and Kurdish nations can not be considered as equals.”

Such remarks not only belie the claim by the party to be social democratic, but also do more harm to the CHP than anyone else. Meanwhile, opinion polls indicate that the government has public support for its efforts to end PKK violence through a negotiated settlement.

Abhorrent as this may be to the nationalist camp, and understandably so for the families who have lost loved ones to PKK terrorism, the general public appears to be telling the government that even if it has doubts about the current process, it will nevertheless accept it if it works.

The wisdom of the CHP’s approach is therefore not easy to understand, especially when it is clear that this is an issue that concerns Turkey’s future, and should be above party politics. The way the CHP carries on also suggests it is closer to the outlook of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) than to an outlook which befits social democracy.

This should not be taken as a criticism of the MHP, however. Given its well known ultra-nationalistic ideology, the MHP is at least honest in its stance, not just against the current process with the PKK, but also against the whole idea of political and cultural rights for the Kurds in Turkey.

In addition to this, the MHP’s position is also manageable politically given that it only got 13 percent of the votes in the 2011 general elections, as it was lucky to have made it over the electoral threshold of 10 percent.
Open and meaningful support from the CHP on this issue could, however, make a big difference in helping concerned and wary elements of the public understand that there is no other way to go with the PKK at this stage but to negotiate a settlement.

While there is the terrorism aspect which must not be underestimated, the whole issue also has a social aspect pertaining to the conditions of Kurds which is recognized today in a way that was not possible a few years ago. Meanwhile, the military approach against the PKK has been tried for over a quarter of a century and has failed to solve the problem.

So the CHP may be working to make the AKP lose supporters by not helping it in its current efforts with the PKK. The chances are, however, that if it does not change tack, the real loser in the end will most likely be itself again.