Where to, CHP?

Where to, CHP?

Will the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) convention held over the weekend provide a renewal, a true opening to different masses?

This is the thesis of CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who has always defended an opening to different masses; the “new CHP” phrase also belongs to him.

However, the results of the last three elections have shown that “change” does not occur by just saying and putting a couple of “different” people on showcase. 

This time, the convention was named “the democracy, change and fraternity convention.” In this convention Kılıçdaroğlu became more in control of his party; the party staff is changing to a significant extent also. It is obvious that the staff changes should reach rural organizations, which are the true contact points with the public. Whether or not this will happen, time will tell.
In-party democracy 

Analyses covering the CHP’s distant past do not quite shed any light to its functioning today. The political definition of the “party of the leader or party of the chief” suits the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) more than the CHP today. The phenomenon that Mr. Bülent Arınç summed up as, “We were ‘us,’ now, we are I…”  

For any member of the AK Party who opposes that, I would recommend they read Yakup Kadri’s perfect novel “Panorama,” which witnesses and explains the domestic functioning of the CHP in the 1930s.   

Sadly, I have to state that the in-party democracy in the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is very limited; the leader cult is very strong. Their cultural reasons are another discussion…

The in-party democracy exists in the CHP but this has, rather than being open to new ideas, emerged as “fractionism” within itself and caused damage to the party.

For this reason, the CHP has never been over 25 percent of the votes.
‘Cultural walls’ 

I had interviewed Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu at CNN Türk on March 6, 1999, when he ran for the office for the mayor of Istanbul. I had reminded him the CHP was gaining votes from the “bourgeoisie” but it was the right wing that largely received the votes of ghettos, wide poor segments.

Kılıçdaroğlu explained that the “cultural walls” between CHP and these segments have to be overcome and said the following as a sum:

“We, first, should accept people as they are with their beliefs and political thoughts. We are in the 21st century; we should be over clothes, appearance, beliefs; we should take them out of the debates in political life. If that person is yearning for something, is hungry, then the responsibility belongs to me…”

When he became the party leader, he continued this line of his; those fractions that opposed this in the party were only good in shaking the credibility of the new policy…

Today, no one can deny Kılıçdaroğlu’s contribution to the developments experienced in the solving of the issues regarding the freedom of religion and belief in Turkey.  

In the 2002 elections, even though the Democratic Left Party (DSP) was gone, the CHP was only able to receive 19 percent of the votes; obviously, certain DSP votes had gone to the AK Party. The CHP’s 2007 election votes remained at 21 percent. In later elections, the voter percentage of the CHP was 25.98 in 2011, 24.95 in June 2015 and 25.38 in November 2015.  

Kılıçdaroğlu, who became the party chair in May 2010, carried the CHP to 25 percent in the 2011 elections. This was a first for post-1980. But it remained there, not being able to break the glass wall of 25 percent.

One of the “checks and balances” issues in our democracy, maybe the most important one, is “weak opposition” in terms of vote power. This phenomenon in history has embittered the oppositions and made the governments authoritarian; we have been caught in a spiral.

If the CHP, on the occasion of its weekend convention, is, this time, able to “renew itself,” which would enable it to open to wide and different masses, this would be beneficial to both our democracy and our country.