Who is the opposition in the CHP and what do they want?

Who is the opposition in the CHP and what do they want?

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will hold an extraordinary congress on Feb. 26.

According to its statute, the signatures of one-fifth of the total number of delegates enable the party leader to convene an extraordinary congress. One of the opposing names, former Secretary-General Önder Sav and his team, with the partial support of another opposing group, former leader Deniz Baykal’s supporters, were able to collect 369 signatures. Out of these, 361 were considered valid and the process began. The opposition wants the “democratization” of the statute. But their real aim is different. 

About a year ago, the CHP activated its town, district and province organizations. It started collecting feedback about a new statute. Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said there would be a new statute at the latest in November, that new delegates for neighborhoods were being elected and that the democratic statute would lay the foundations of a new CHP. 

The opponents could not wait. They demanded an extraordinary congress. And Kılıçdaroğlu decided to convene a bypass congress before the congress that their opposition demanded. If the opposition insists, and it looks like it, there will be another congress at the beginning of March.

Opposition’s demand 

The aim of the opponents is not the democratization of the CHP. If it were, they would have done it before. The delegates that made it possible for Kılıçdaroğlu to become leader are those that were appointed by Sav and Baykal. They did not make the amendments they demand today while they were totally in command of the party. 

What do they want then? If the CHP’s current administration concludes the “statute congress” with success, then the CHP will go through a major makeover from top to bottom. All of the delegates will be elected according to the dynamics set by local politics. In other words, the delegates will be renewed.

Thus, the invisible power that Sav and Baykal have inside the party will decrease. The old CHP’s last chance is to convince the old delegates to topple the new party administration. If they achieve this, then the little CHP, which is destined to be in opposition, will again be theirs. 

According to the statute, if half of the total number of delegates desire it, then the party administration, including the leader, can be renewed. But 361 signatures are not enough. However, the 361 opponents are able to set the agenda of the congress they have called for.

Thus, they will attempt to change the statute and decrease the required minimum number of delegates for an election. If they can succeed in this, it will be possible to elect a new leader. If they cannot, then they will attempt to change the composition of the next party assembly so that they can weaken the leader with an opposing party assembly strategy. The fast track for the opponents in the CHP is to topple the leader, the slow lane is to suppress the leader. 

A closer look at the opposing groups 

The opponents are split in half. The Baykal team and the Sav team do not work together. The opposing delegates who have signed the petition are mostly those names who Sav selected. There is some support for the list from Baykal’s team. It is essential that they work together if they want to make any changes. 

But Sav and Baykal still do not talk to each other, or they look as if they don’t. Their communication is carried out by Yılmaz Ateş on behalf of Baykal and Hakkı Süha Okay on behalf of Sav. They have to work together to resurrect the old CHP. But they have little trust in each other. They know each other’s strategy and tactics. That’s why their job is not easy. 

One interesting aspect of the opposition in the CHP is that most of the opponents represent those provinces that have been the least successful in the elections. For example the southeastern province of Diyarbakır: Out of its 20 delegates, 19 are opponents. These delegates are the architects of the CHP’s disappearance from the southeast. Why are they still there? Because for Sav and Baykal, winning the elections was not the priority. Their motto is essentially as follows: “The delegate should not create problems, he or she can even be disliked in the region, but they should always say ‘yes’ to the CHP we are administrating.” This is what the opponents in the CHP really want. Since a return to the old CHP would be impossible with new delegates, this is their last chance. Democracy is only an excuse for them. 


Koray Çalışkan is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on Jan 31. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

Turkey, Kemal Kilicdaroglu,