Turkey’s CHP problem

Turkey’s CHP problem

Turkey’s fundamental problem is not having an Islamist party that has replaced “pluralism,” “supremacy of law” and “separation of powers” principles of democracy with majoritarianism, “the boss knows best” and totalitarian tendencies that gather all judicial, legislative and executive power in one person and create a chief executive with absolute power.

Of course, all these are problems of today’s Turkey, but if the country had a credible opposition party that could challenge the ruling party and give people the hope that they could replace the government with their votes, the situation would improve immeasurably. Not only would the notion of democracy be enhanced, but also the “absolute power” of the day would be compelled to adopt a mindset compatible with the norms of democratic governance.

Back in 2006, at a time when the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was waging a lonely and unfortunate fight against the reform in the penal code article that would regulate penalties for the ambiguous “insult to Turkishness,” I wrote in this column: “Turkey has a serious CHP problem because of the way this founding party of the modern Turkish Republic has been acting - not only against the amendment to the contentious Article 301, but also against other key reforms that would enhance minority rights in this country.

Can the CHP see any difference between the sufferings of the mother of a slain soldier and a terrorist killed in the mountains? The CHP must come to realize that Turkey has to develop an all-inclusive civilian approach to bring an end to the 30-year-old trauma this nation has been suffering from. And, definitely, at some stage we have to consider an amnesty to heal old wounds. We must understand from our decades of experience that success will be limited and unsustainable if military advances in the fight against terrorism are not supplemented with real economic, social, cultural and political reforms addressing the root causes of the problem. Does Turkey have a center-left or social democratic party with such an understanding?

Unfortunately, we do not. Can we say that this is a testament to the failure of social democrats in Turkey? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.”

After two days of conventions over the weekend, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, promising greater democracy within his “new” CHP, emerged victorious and, perhaps for the first time, became leader of the party as well as its chairman. The era of Deniz Baykal and Önder Sav is in the past. The next convention this June will most probably rubber stamp Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership of the CHP.

Congratulations. At the extraordinary weekend conventions, the CHP old guard’s push to challenge Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership resulted in a decisive defeat. However, will the CHP really manage to become a “new” CHP, adhering to social democratic principles as Kılıçdaroğlu pledged over the weekend? Will the party finally put a full stop to the perennial CHP problem and become part of the solution, and perhaps a brick in the construction of a real democratic atmosphere in the country?