CHP: Doomed to be torn within


Turkey’s ever-limping main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is slowly moving towards a final reckoning. The frequency of opposing views being expressed from the party is on the rise, and even its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, now realizes that it is an impossible task to keep the party in political limbo. But, in any sense, his choice will be no less easy than Sophie’s.
The crisis is now visible with the remarks made by Birgül Ayman Güler, the party’s İzmir deputy. “You cannot make me see the Turkish nation as equal to Kurdish ethnicity,” she said from the chair of the General Assembly, causing a storm. Adıyaman deputy Salih Fırat, a Kurdish member of the CHP, and the one and only mayor affiliated with the party, Yılmaz Altındağ, from Ömerli-Mardin, resigned in fury with immediate effect. Fırat told the press yesterday that if this trend of discourse continues, “there will be more resignations.”

Meanwhile, the Kemalist-nationalist flank, using the Güler debate as a tool, advanced further through other statements, in support. Various deputies said, “The CHP is, of course, a nationalist party” — or something of that sort — and that “there was a coordinated campaign to split it up.” Media were also accused of “blowing it out of proportion.”

But for many experienced observers of the CHP, nothing is surprising. Only that this time the Kemalist-nationalist flank is seen as building a block, positioning itself against Kılıçdaroğlu. It was interesting to note that when the leader met with Güler behind closed doors, he reproached her clearly enough. But, instead of apologizing before the public, at a press conference after the tête-à-tête she defended her views and added that she needs an apology herself.

This means one thing: Güler and many others sharing her mindset now have chosen to defy the leadership. This equals war.

A similar incident happened when an Alevi deputy of the CHP, Hüseyin Aygün, visited the family of Sakine Cansız, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder slain in Paris. He was told that his case could lead to disciplinary measures, but has remained unmoved. Needless to say, the CHP is a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any time.

It was expected. Ever since he took over after the humiliating exposure and resignation of Deniz Baykal, Kılıçdaroğlu showed a constant inability to lead the party in a clear direction. He may have had the leadership profile, but lacked the skills it requires.

He thought he could keep together the party’s various flanks in the same pool, but instead had to turn into a helpless observer as the fault lines beneath increasingly cracked open.

But ever since the beginning, it was obvious that it was more than a simple management problem. Kılıçdaroğlu, with a limited background as a civil servant, either failed or refused to see the fundamental fact that all the genies of Turkey were out of the bottle for good; that any delay in analyzing properly and acknowledging the new realities would further anachronize his party.

He stuck obstinately to the notion that the age-old principles of the CHP would still provide answers to Turkey’s new questions. It was, of course, out of any question that they would.

To be fair, he has managed to accomplish some personal changes at the board level, and to consolidate the support of the large chunks of CHP’s nationwide network. But he has refused to move ahead to a new track.

The tipping point, as predicted, came with the Kurdish issue. The party’s Kemalist elite, dominant not in the boards but in Parliament, escalated the confrontation, using the old rhetoric, which has deepened the rifts within, particularly with the Kurdish-Alevi segment and a younger reformist clique. Kılıçdaroğlu is now just in between them, as Turkey proceeds towards the crucial 2014 local elections.

In short, his time is running out. He cannot keep the ball in the midfield. Either he will have to cut an alliance within the old Kemalist guard, or confront them rigorously to force them to quit the party. (The militarist-leftist Worker’s Party [İP] is on the rise, a possible destination for all those quitting.) But, if he hesitates to take a step, he will end up as a complete loser, replaced by the party’s shrewd wolves.