CHP leader Deniz Baykal in the new party administration, but his Party Council -- which has 52 new members -- looks like a patchwork quilt, with very different members from opposing ideological backgrounds.
Analysts say the lack of harmony might make things difficult for Kılıçdaroğlu.
The new Party Council, observers say, is dominated by Secretary-General Önder Sav's supporters. People who were crucial in the Baykal era, such as Mustafa Özyürek, Yılmaz Ateş, Onur Öymen and Cevdet Selvi, have been left out of the council. The only people who remained from the Baykal era in the party administration are Sav, Mehmet Ali Özpolat, Faik Öztrak and Mesut Değer. Kılıçdaroğlu has mostly gathered opponents of Baykal. However, some of the new members of the administration are also opponents of each other.
Sav, despite being a right-hand man for Baykal, was the architect of the new and mostly anti-Baykal Party Council. Sav has been criticized by his opponents inside the party and in the party's organizations, but Baykal had defended Sav in the face of criticism and even scandals. However, Sav changed his stance in the last minute and gave his blessing to Kılıçdaroğlu's candidacy. Baykal and his supporters, who were hoping for Baykal's return, are now accusing him of being Brutus.
CHP İstanbul branch leader Gürsel Tekin and Sav produced competing lists for the CHP's weekend congress, trying to oust each other from the new party administration. They ended up as the two figures elected to the Party Council with the least number of votes. It is also curious how these two men will work with each other in Kılıçdaroğlu's administration.
Değer, who was more or less like a stepson under Baykal, was at odds with Sav and pro-Sav fractions regarding the Kurdish question. Değer, who in the past prepared a report on the Kurdish question, risked being thrown out of the party for defending a general amnesty for members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The fact that Kılıçdaroğlu did not make any mention of the Kurdish question during the congress has led commentators to conclude that Değer was included in the party administration just because he is a Baykal opponent.
The fact that Yıldız, who allegedly worked as an aide to Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ although she denies it, is on the list is indicative that the CHP will continue following a military-oriented policy. Kılıçdaroğlu also included Cumhuriyet daily writers Mehmet Faraç, Melda Onur and Enver Aysever on the council. The Cumhuriyet daily is known for favoring a coup d’état against the alleged Islamization of Turkey by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
Baykal opponents in Party Council
Professor Hurşit Güneş, who earlier attempted to run for leadership but failed to garner enough support, as well as Haluk Koç, who also challenged the leadership of Baykal, were also included in the party administration. Umut Oran, another person who attempted to run against Baykal but could only get 15 signatures to back his candidacy, was also included. The most interesting name, however, is Süheyl Batum, who attended the last convention of the right-wing Democrat Party (DP). He is also known for criticizing the CHP harshly for the past two years. His father was a delegate from the Justice Party (AP) and later a deputy of the old DP.
The only prominent Baykal opponent that Kılıçdaroğlu left out of the party administration was CHP İstanbul deputy Ali Topuz. CHP Yalova deputy Muharrem İnce was also left out, in a surprise decision as he has been very active in the limelight lately. Murat Karayalçın, the CHP’s Ankara mayor candidate who stepped down as leader of the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP) to run for mayor, was also not included in the administration. Karayalçın might leave the CHP and join the new Equality and Democracy Party (EYP). In his remarks on the congress, Karayalçın said Kılıçdaroğlu should have promised changes to the 1982 Constitution and to Turkey’s political parties and election laws. The only promise from Kılıçdaroğlu was on lowering the election threshold.
İsmet İnönü’s granddaughter, Gülsün Bilgehan Toker, who had also been part of efforts to form an alternative to the CHP, was included in the administration.
Opposing views on the chador initiative
Ahead of the March 29 local elections last year, İstanbul provincial branch head Tekin had registered women in chadors as members of the CHP. However, this was later protested by a group in Mersin, including Necla Arat, who burnt chadors. Both Arat and Tekin are now on the party council. Arat is known for her uncompromising secularism.
Lawyer Soner Çetin, an opponent of Sav, was also included in the administration. Retired mufti İhsan Özkes is also a member of the new Party Council. He is remembered for a speech he delivered at the funeral of Türkan Saylan.
Ecevit in Parliament?
Rahşan Ecevit, a co-founder of the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the widow of former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, also supports Kılıçdaroğlu. She left her recently founded Democratic Left People’s Party (DSHP) and attended the CHP congress. It is likely that she will enter Parliament next year in an election alliance between CHP and the DSHP or DSP. This is problematic for the CHP, as Ecevit for a time did not even allow her DSP’s members to shake hands with CHP members. Some members of the New Turkey Party (YTP), another party that formed out of the disintegrated DSP, have also returned to the CHP. These individuals had been accused of betrayal in the past by Ecevit, which is likely to cause more friction inside the party.
Ecevit’s return to the CHP has comforted the DSP. The DSP administration believes that some ex-DSP and YTP members in the CHP might return to the party, as they were also left out of the party administration.
‘Man of people’ Kılıçdaroğlu sparks debate with branded shirt
The newly elected chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, whose platform includes declarations of solidarity with the common people, came under some scrutiny after it appeared that a shirt he wore during the weekend’s party congress was produced by a famous Italian fashion house.
Kılıçdaroğlu, who was elected as the new leader of the CHP on Saturday at the party’s 33rd ordinary congress, did not wear a suit or a tie. When asked why, he said he felt closer to the public this way, part of his efforts to create the image of being a “man of the people.” However, it later appeared that the shirt he wore was from Italian men’s clothing brand Etro and cost nearly TL 500. A heated debate started on Sunday on Twitter, a social networking website, over Kılıçdaroğlu’s populist credentials. Noting that Etro shirts are sold in few stores in Turkey, some users criticized Kılıçdaroğlu, saying, “Populist Kılıçdaroğlu has gone, Etro Kemal came instead.” There were many comments criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu’s shirt. Many Twitter users also said it was a contradiction for him to wear such an expensive shirt while promising to be a leader close to the nation.
The chairman responded to the criticism yesterday. “My friends advised me to wear something casual to the congress since the weather would be hot and it would be more relatable. So I bought a pair of shoes and a shirt just before the congress. I bought them with my own money. I learned that the shirt was a fashion brand today from the newspapers,” he said.
Kılıçdaroğlu, the only leadership candidate at last weekend’s CHP party congress, has become the party’s seventh chairman, succeeding former leader Deniz Baykal.
Kılıçdaroğlu has severely criticized the government for failing to mitigate poverty in the country, arguing that the government officials have become rich during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). He says he is a man of the people and will continue to live a modest life even if he becomes the prime minister. Ercan YAVUZ / İstanbul Today’s Zaman