CHP’s three-fold strategy for 2023 polls
The last time Turkey’s oldest political party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was in the power was between 1995 and 1996 for 128 days in a small part of a coalition with the True Path Party (DYP).
Since 2002, its status as the main opposition has never changed as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has swept all the polls.
Current chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu replaced Deniz Baykal in 2010 after the latter had to resign after a video of his private relationship with a woman was leaked. Baykal was known with his strong oratory skills and his devotion to the leftist-secularist values but failed to generate hopes for the future of the party.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s election as the leader of the social democrat party meant it would be a real new era for the CHP because his priority was first to change the internal dynamics and the governance structure of the party. He spent his first years to consolidate his power against the old hands of the CHP who were representing the elite more than the people in the eyes of Kılıçdaroğlu.
In many of his interviews, he had complained that running the CHP would be much more difficult than running the Republic of Turkey because of unending internal struggles between various factions.
This weekend’s congress has proven once again that Kılıçdaroğlu is the ultimate leader of the CHP as none of the three potential contenders for leadership could secure enough support to run against him.
But the main question about him is where he can succeed in defeating the AKP in the next elections and come to power in a single-party government or part of a large coalition. Kılıçdaroğlu seems to be firm that this will happen in the next polls with the friends, meaning the Nation Alliance set by the CHP, the İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party and the Democrat Party.
It’s no secret that Kılıçdaroğlu eyes joining the Future Party of Ahmet Davutoğlu and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) of Ali Babacan, two former AKP members, in an alliance in the next elections.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s strategy for the next polls is roughly based on three pillars:
*The continuation and expansion of the Nation Alliance. In a system that requires 50 percent + 1 vote to come to power, the only way is to keep the unity of the opposition parties against the AKP-led People’s Alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The opposition alliance has realized that it’s doable as they won Istanbul and Ankara municipalities in the 2019 local polls. Kılıçdaroğlu, as the leader of the biggest opposition party, will continue to play an important role in keeping the balance within the alliance as it’s composed of different political leanings and priorities. His attention will be particularly on keeping the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on board as the invisible member of the Nation Alliance as the government’s pressure on this party will likely be increased in the coming period.
Therefore, Kılıçdaroğlu’s 13-article manifesto was meant to be a general and inclusive document summarizing the joint objectives of the components of the alliance. Its main purpose is to re-write the constitution and re-install the parliamentary system with an impartial president. It briefly touches on the need to resolve the Kurdish question under the auspices of the Turkish Parliament and highlights the protection of the fundamental freedoms and rights.
As a matter of fact, this manifesto is nothing new, in particular. But it could be utilized as a starting point for the alliance in their future endeavors to create a solid united stance.
*Kılıçdaroğlu’s second strategical pillar addresses the morality and psychological integrity of the party grassroots and the entire society. He always urges party members, lawmakers and officials to use a positive language and diffuse optimism about the future. Instead of talking about the AKP-MHP wrongdoings, the CHP should better explain how it will resolve all the existing problems. In this regard, Kılıçdaroğlu pays utmost attention to the performance of the mayors in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Antalya and elsewhere as they make up nearly 60 percent of the Turkish population. He always warns the mayors to not get engaged in political rows and instead tells them to concentrate on their services to the people.
*Thirdly, Kılıçdaroğlu and his people are very cautious in not giving fresh opportunities to the AKP to attack the social democrat party over sensitive national and religious issues. Avoiding culture wars with the AKP, as seen in the course of the opening of the Hagia Sophia to Islamic warship, will be among priorities of the CHP. Instead, Kılıçdaroğlu tells the CHP fellows to keep Turkey’s deep economic and social problems atop their political rhetoric, highlighting that the AKP government can no longer deliver.
Surely, only time will show to what extent this strategy will work and carry the CHP to the government after nearly three decades.