Turkish main opposition’s senior executive resigns, set to run against party leader

Turkish main opposition’s senior executive resigns, set to run against party leader

Turkish main opposition’s senior executive resigns, set to run against party leader

Muharrem İnce made his resignation public during a press conference at Parliament on Aug 18. AA Photo

A senior executive of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has heavily criticized party policies that he claims led to defeat in the Aug. 10 presidential election, resigned yesterday in preparation for challenging for the party’s leadership.

CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Muharrem İnce reportedly resigned from his party post in order to run against the current party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in a party convention next month.

İnce’s resignation, which he made public in a press conference at Parliament, came as no surprise as he had publicly listed his objections to the current state of affairs regarding the party structure and its policies at a press conference on Aug. 14.

“In this country, the improvements of the principle of independence and the understanding of a secular republic and state based on the rule of law have all taken place because of the CHP. But the current CHP leadership has no remedy for any of the country’s problems,” he said, after listing various issues that he claims require a “restructuring of Turkey.”

“As of today, although there is no legal obligation, I have resigned from my post,” İnce said, adding that he had sent his resignation petition to Kılıçdaroğlu earlier in the day.

His resignation came a day after CHP spokesperson Haluk Koç announced on Aug. 17 that the CHP would hold an extraordinary convention on Sept. 5-6.

After six other dissidents from the party's nationalist wing also voiced their objection against the party leadership and called for an extraordinary convention, as well as Kılıçdaroğlu’s resignation, İnce has chosen to strike out on his own path.

İnce is known to have the support of former CHP Chairman Deniz Baykal, who has been pursuing a silent but determined opposition to Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership since being ousted as party leader in 2010.

However, İnce made clear yesterday that he is nobody’s puppet. “I am not anybody’s man. I ask for everybody’s support,” he said.

Some 50 former CHP deputies, who last week joined the dissidents in voicing their discontent against the party leader and calling for his resignation, have not hid their potential support for İnce against Kılıçdaroğlu. The CHP’s former deputy parliamentary group chair, Kemal Anadol, speaking on behalf of the group, acknowledged that Baykal and the former secretary-general of the party, Önder Sav, also supported the calls.

‘Extremely nice’

Just hours before İnce’s announcement, Kılıçdaroğlu was asked in Istanbul about his potential candidacy.

“Extremely nice fellows, extremely nice,” he only said upon his arrival at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, where he was welcomed by a group of party members.

In an interview published on Aug. 13, a day after the press conference by the dissident camp led by Emine Ülker Tarhan, who was favored by the party's nationalist wing within the party to be nominated as the party’s presidential candidate, Kılıçdaroğlu singled out the situation of İnce.

“He [İnce] is not like the others,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, emphasizing how İnce had worked for Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu’s campaign although he had objections from the beginning.

Both İnce and the nationalist group, assumed to be close to the Workers’ Party (İP), argue that Kılıçdaroğlu has taken the party away from its fundamental pillars by nominating İhsanoğlu as a joint presidential candidate with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

İnce, 50, has been serving as the CHP's Yalova deputy since 2002. Although always having been a vocal deputy, frequently taking Parliament’s rostrum to deliver harsh criticism against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, he has become even more visible since the 2007 elections, after which he became a deputy parliamentary group chair of the party.

He came to particular prominence in December 2009, during deliberations over the central governance budget law, when he delivered a speech that was harshly critical of the government’s privatization policies. His speech received more than 100,000 comments on the Internet and drew huge interest on social media.

In October 2013, İnce again drew attention with a speech made during a General Assembly session, after four ruling party lawmakers entered Parliament wearing headscarves.

“Those without headscarves are our sisters just as how those with headscarves are our sisters too,” he said.

Speaking on Aug. 18, İnce summarized the formula that he believes will bring the CHP to power. “We should put an end to our internal fights; we should get rid of the elitist structure and understanding; we should be more hardworking; we should definitely win the hearts of our honest and decent citizens who are afraid of haram [un-Islamic acts] and who have not so far voted for the CHP; and we should find a political way of getting votes from Kurdish voters at all costs,” he said.