Turkey’s main opposition announces reshuffle

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced its new Central Executive Board (MYK) on Monday, following its 37th convention on July 25.

Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu kept most of the 16-member board the same but switched some key positions.

The CHP’s new MYK Secretary General, Istanbul deputy Selin Sayek Böke, is a New York-born economist, who has a PhD from Duke University. She has taught economics in Ankara’s Bilkent University, as well as at Bentley and Georgetown universities in the United States. She also chaired Bilkent’s economics department and served as assistant dean in the faculty of social sciences.

Böke won the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s Excellence Award in Global Economic Affairs in 2007, and worked as a project advisor and an economist at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund respectively.

She was elected to parliament in 2015, and served as the CHP’s deputy chairwoman and party spokeswoman until her resignation in 2017 over her criticism of a lack of intra-party democracy and a weak opposition to Turkey’s transition into the current executive presidential system.

Böke, in a way, has been rewarded and readmitted to the top decision-making circle after proving her loyalty to the party since she has not criticised the CHP leader or his policies publicly.

MYK newcomer Ali Öztunç, who was appointed deputy chairman for ecology policy, is a journalist born in Germany and a former member of the media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).

Öztunç worked as a reporter, news director and an Ankara representative in various television networks and newspapers, including Kanal D and HaberTürk, and served as the CHP’s media undersecretary until 2013, and was elected to parliament in 2015. Öztunç is also a prominent figure in Turkey’s environmental movement against hydrothermal power plants.

Ahmet Akın, before his new appointment as the deputy chairman for energy and infrastructure, was the energy policies chief advisor to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He is a University of Cambridge alumnus, and has studied political science.

Yüksel Taşkın is a social democrat and a political scientist who was one of the thousands of scholars dismissed via presidential decree in the purge following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016. He was elected to parliament in 2018, and has now been appointed the deputy chairman for social policy. His academic work has focused on Turkish politics, nationalism, conservatism and political Islam.

Among the MYK members who kept their seats are Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, who founded the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV) and is deputy chairman for domestic and diaspora organising and management of party chapters, and Faik Öztrak, who comes from a long line of top-level bureaucrats and studied economics and development in the famed Ankara University Political Sciences Faculty and University of Birmingham.

Öztrak served as deputy undersecretary in the State Planning Organisation (DPT) and later as the treasury undersecretary, and will serve as CHP’s party spokesman and deputy chairman for economic policy.

Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, Deputy chairwoman for public relations, is an orthognathic surgeon and trade unionist. She has been involved with the establishment of women’s shelters and youth centres, as well as other social projects. She is also pursuing a PhD in cultural and artistic policy. Her colleague Gülizar Biçer Karaca, deputy chairwoman for human rights, has also worked on women’s rights issues, women’s shelters, violence against women and civil law reforms.

Political scientist Fethi Açıkel, CHP’s deputy chairman for science, governance and culture platform, is an alumnus of the University of Essex and a former post-doctoral researcher in the London School of Economics. Among others, his academic work focuses on social democracy, nationalism versus citizenship, and political elitism.

Youth leader and deputy chairwoman for youth Gökçe Gökçen has a focus on Europe, having lived and studied in Belgium, Britain, France, Latvia, and Italy. She was elected deputy chairwoman to the Young European Socialists in 2015. She has worked on a comparative study between U.S.-based Occupy movements and Turkey’s Gezi Protests.

No members of the 60-member Caucus were appointed as deputy chairs of media and foreign relations, carried out by Tuncay Özkan and Ünal Çeviköz previously. Both were earlier appointed chief advisors to party chairman in their respective fields.

Seyit Torun was appointed as the deputy chairman for local administrations, an area where CHP calls for change, running on a platform to rescind Turkey’s reservations on the relevant articles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

Torun, a two-time mayor of his hometown Ordu, has worked on local governments and municipalities in Germany and the Netherlands.

No deputy chair was appointed for women’s issues, and the reason may be that chairwoman of women’s chapters Aylin Nazlıaka is expected to work closely with Kılıçdaroğlu on a different format in the upcoming term, daily BirGün reported on Tuesday.