The CHP’s position on a knife-edge
A primary indicator of democracy is the presence of an opposition. The strength of that opposition and its ability to work freely are crucial for a healthy democracy, and the fact that the opposition can provide an alternative safeguards the hope for democracy.
There is no need to repeat the degree to which the conditions of the opposition in Turkey have degenerated, and the extent to which its channels to reach the public have been closed. For this reason, the panel organized by the İzmir branch of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) should be pondered, and political scientists’ warnings that “the alternative is authoritarianism” should be taken very seriously.
In particular, the panel’s presentation of data indicating that even its own voters do not think the CHP is ever going to be successful should be carefully considered. The implications are alarming for the CHP administration ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
Omar Khayyam’s criteria
The data were presented at the panel by Murat Sarı, the general manager of the Konsensus research company. Before I knew the content of his presentation, I opened the panel with two quotations from Amin Maalouf’s novel “Samarkand,” focusing on what I think are the two top issues that the CHP faces: Ability to manage and believing in success.
In the book, when the poet Omar Khayyam rejects the offer of a grand viziership, he explains the sensitive line between being in power and being in opposition: “There is a difference between the features needed to rule and those that are needed to come to power. To be able to rule well, you have to forget your own affairs and only consider others, especially the affairs of the poor. However, in order to come to power, you have to be a greedy, selfish person who would be ready to turn his back to a friend. I cannot do this.”
The second quotation was about believing in success. In the book, Alexander the Great’s advisors approach him at one point to warn that Darius’ army is many times bigger than his own. Alexander shrugs his shoulders, saying, “Darius’ soldiers fight to die; but my soldiers fight to win.”
Let me remind you that I have written about how the CHP’s disillusionment formed at the March 30 local elections was multiplied in the Aug. 10 presidential election, and that even the party’s extraordinary convention could not remove this. Let’s see what the data presented by Sarı say on these fields.
Spots with blinking red lights
The outcome of the convention has not satisfied the average CHP voter, and there are certain signs of confusion over CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Among Turkey’s wider general population, the situation is little different; the rate of “liking” Kılıçdaroğlu is 6 to 7 percentage points behind that of Mustafa Sarıgül and Muharrem İnce.
Almost 60 percent of CHP voters do not expect victory in the 2015 elections. The rate of those who believe that Kılıçdaroğlu will become prime minister is as low as 11 percent.
The electorate holds the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) responsible to a great extent for issues of the country that are not solved, but it is also interesting that 25 percent point the finger at the CHP. It is important that the rate of those who associate the CHP with the incompetence of the opposition - after the AKP has been in power for 13 years - is around 60 percent. The rate is similar among CHP voters.
It is also worth considering that 49 percent of the electorate says “Current political parties do not meet my expectations,” and that this rate reaches 70 percent among CHP voters.
The survey points to spots with blinking red lights. The CHP administration should focus on generating formulae that will turn all these blinking red lights to green, and the preliminary signals should be announced and publicized immediately, starting today.
The priority lies in voicing the discourse and policies that are voter-oriented and cohesive, from bottom to top.