CHP’s Kaftancıoğlu refuses defeat amid looming threat of arrest - TIME

The chairwoman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Canan Kaftancıoğlu, is standing tall against government efforts to have her jailed over alleged crimes that prove the judiciary has become President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal instrument of power, TIME magazine said on Wednesday.

The 49-year-old politician brings a unique element to Turkish politics as a secular woman  “unafraid to confront the old guard “ of the CHP who played a central role in  “engineering Erdogan’s biggest electoral defeat in years, ‘’ it said.

Kaftancıoğlu became a rising star in Turkey’s main opposition party after the March 31, 2019 local elections, and is credited as the person behind the CHP's victory in Istanbul, where Erdoğan launched his political career and ha been controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessor since 1994.

Months after the Istanbul victory, the article recalled, an Istanbul prosecutor sentenced Kaftancıoğlu to almost 10 years in prison on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda” and “insulting the Republic and President.’’ The charges were mostly based on tweets that dated back eight years. 

The charges against the CHP Istanbul chairwoman have snowballed since, with the Istanbul chief prosecutor filing charges carrying a maximum jail term of 17 years in May 2019 and in September of the year an Istanbul court sentenced Kaftancioglu to 9 years and 8 months in jail, pending an appeal.

But Kaftancıoğlu proves she is not afraid and remains a strong advocate for justice, Time said, pointing to her advocacy for students in their ongoing protests at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi university over the appointment of a government loyalist rector.

The CHP official does not fit the mould of either secular or conservative politicians in the country, TIME said, highlighting that she has protested against the CHP-installed headscarf ban and remarks on Armenian genocide of 1915, a claim denied by Turkey.

For her victory in Istanbul, Kaftancıoğlu’s campaign “focused on corruption and patronage rather than divisive identity politics,’’ Time said, engaging  “a cross-section of Istanbullusfrustrated with the state of the economy, including Kurdish voters who had long mistrusted the CHP.’’

If she goes to jail in the next few weeks, Kaftancıoğlu told TIME she would use the time to learn a new language, or perhaps study for an additional university degree. 

Either way, “I will come out stronger,” the CHP Istanbul chairwoman said.