CHP’s impotence problem

CHP’s impotence problem

Contrary to what is generally believed Turkey does not have an administration problem. Totalitarian, often bordering dictatorship, most of the time officiously intervening in the private sphere, but there has always been a strong government in Ankara over the past decade or so. Yet, there is impotence.

Where? In the opposition parties. It is that acute impotence which has been devastating the democratic prospects of the country, crippling hopes of a way out and encouraging Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to further consolidate their autocratic style of governance.

It is often said that in a village without dogs there is no need of walking around with sticks. In the absence of a credible democratic opposition producing alternative policies and offering remedies other than reacting to what was already suggested by the government, as we have been living the present-day Turkish example, democracy becomes a fairy tale while masses worship government and the leader as if they are divine. Irrespective who says what, past local and parliamentary elections demonstrate vividly that in vast part of the country the ruling party is the first party and in the remaining provinces it is the second party while the two biggest opposition parties are almost non-existent in many parts of the country. For example, is there any functioning party organization of either the Republican People’s Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in most of the southeastern Anatolian cities?

It is clear that there is an acute opposition impotence – no longer deficiency – in this country. Without this problem was properly addressed the governance problem of Turkey and democratic deficiencies will continue.

The presidential elections offered the opposition a golden opportunity, and for a change, the two parliamentary opposition parties managed to bury their differences and agree on the name of a joint candidate. Some other parties lend support and thus the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) former Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu became what’s branded as “the roof candidate” of the united opposition.

Developing political compromise, particularly in a presidential election, was very important and exemplary attitude giving hope for the future of democracy. Yet, the name of İhsanoğlu and his conservative past – even his father’s political preferences – were used not by the ruling party and its presidential candidate but by the opposition within the CHP. Why? They wanted to hunt down the candidate of their own party because they did not consider him sufficiently secular or Kemalist.
However, consensus is a give-and-take and requires compromise. İhsanoğlu was not a MHP member, nor was a CHP member. He was not perhaps the first choice of the MHP and definitely under normal conditions he would not be the first choice of the CHP. Yet, he was named as their candidate.

The opposition within the CHP however was not smart enough and sufficiently democratic enough to understand that if a joint candidate was necessary – to stop Erdoğan from becoming president – it was obvious that the candidate must have to be a conservative one. Furthermore, ever since he was named candidate, İhsanoğlu has been in pains to demonstrate that he was indeed for gender equality, secularism and a presidency that embraces the entire nation. What else did the CHP’s opposition want? They wanted to see a die-hard Kemalist, committed secularist, someone in line with the party’s conservative-nationalist-Kemalist tradition which never ever succeeded since Turkey moved to pluralist democracy in 1950.

Is it not time for the CHP to wake up? Is it not time to understand that even if he fails in the presidency bid İhsanoğlu’s candidacy indeed might help CHP leave behind its impotence, move towards the real world by leaving behind a utopia that died decades ago?