What can a political party do to kill its own electoral prospects? There might be several answers to this question. “Whatever list [of parliamentary candidates] we produced would have been criticized. We agreed on this list,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said in response to harsh attacks over the list that did not include most of the current deputies of the party.
Naturally, rejuvenation should have been considered by all parties in preparing the list of candidates for parliament. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) did. The Good (İYİ) Party did not have such a problem as it had just been established but it had a different tricky situation: How to satisfy expectations of an army of parliamentary hopefuls in a party that received the second highest applications after the ruling AKP?
These are of course the most difficult days for all parties. Thank God there is a deadline to submit the lists of candidates. Though for the next few days the discussions might continue, the issue has come to an official termination. Still, what disgruntled politicians do against their parties might have an impact on their election performances.
Whoever is missing on the AKP and even the İYİ Party lists may not be that important, as the probable flashback will probably be far less than what I expect in the CHP. İlhan Cihaner, the chief prosecutor hunted during the Ergenekon thriller period was kicked aside.
Ali Şeker, Eren Erdem and Barış Yarkadaş were pushed out of the list as well. Former Cumhuriyet editor and also an Ergenekon spree victim Mustafa Balbay was also left out of the list. Of course, there were still hours for the deadline to submit the lists when this article was penned but there was no expectation that any of these important and symbolic names may manage a comeback.
Was Kılıçdaroğlu in a fight with Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of the party? If not, why were almost all names close to İnce denied a place on the CHP list of candidates? That was a very meaningful situation for the traumatic escalation that might start in the CHP after a parliamentary electoral defeat. İnce himself cannot be a candidate as presidential candidates cannot run for parliament as well. Was İnce’s nomination a strategical maneuver by Kılıçdaroğlu? Was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “Kemal must have wanted to eradicate you by making you a presidential candidate” joke to İnce during their meeting an experienced guess?
Will the CHP be able to bury the antagonism and sour feelings the lists created or will there be an internal fight? There will probably be a very difficult period ahead for Kılıçdaroğlu if the CHP vote falls below the 2015 vote of 24.5 percent on June 24 because of the disgruntled old guard.
In any way, Kılıçdaroğlu was right that whatever list he and the party executive produced would be criticized. For a party with a tradition of by-elections, allowing the party leader and the party executive to prepare the lists would be particularly problematic. The decision of the AKP-MHP parliamentary coalition to go to snap presidential polls and presidential elections unfortunately left no room to spend with establishing the lists through by-elections.
Politics is a difficult game. All incumbents need not be re-elected at every election, otherwise there would not be a rejuvenation in politics. But did the CHP make a list for rejuvenation or was its list of candidates a product of an effort to move the party to a center-right place on the political spectrum? The nomination of some Islamist conservatives, including Abdüllatif Şener, while leaving out some appreciated names of the left will not be easy for traditional voters of the CHP to accept.
So unfortunate for the CHP.