Will Turkey’s CHP utilise its newly found political momentum? - Arab Weekly

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is faced with the difficult task of proving whether it can overcome its long list of challenges to become a vehicle for real political change for Turkey or concede that its urban successes in the most recent polls were merely a flash in the pan, wrote journalist Stephen Starr in the Arab Weekly.

Turkey’s secularist CHP politicians won five of Turkey’s most populous cities in the March 31 local elections and the landslide victory by the party’s Istanbul candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu in the June 23 revote is arguably its greatest achievement in decades. 

Just how the CHP will handle the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) greatest defeat in its 17 years in power, however, remains to be seen.

CHP’s İmamoğlu ran a brilliant campaign which offered a breath of fresh air for Istanbul residents tired of the round-the-clock media coverage of imagined threats facing the country, such as exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of orchestrating the 2016 failed military coup,  Kurdish militancy or foreign interest rate speculators, the article said.

It was this a backlash to the AKP-induced paranoia that scored İmamoğlu about 800,000 more votes on June 23 compared to March 31 local elections.

However, the party would do well to remember that ‘’their victory in Istanbul amounts to little more than a protest vote against Erdoğan – not an unconditional approval of their own policies and personalities,’’ Starr wrote.

The CHP is now faced with the monumental task of show Turks it is capable of being a political force nationwide, according to Starr, who noted that secularist party has for years, proved poor government material.

The 1960s and 1970s under CHP rule in the country were paralysed by fear of a takeover by the military, as its economy struggled.

Underlining that CHP truly winning the hearts and minds of the millions of largely conservative voters inhabiting rural Turkey is a tall task for the party, the article noted that the party now has a priceless political momentum.

CHP politicians are often accused of being anti-religious, however, İmamoğlu, as a practicing Muslim, has managed to turn the tide on such claims

Some of the tasks facing the CHP include recognising wrongdoing done to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP); articulate to rural and urban voters alike the damage of Turkey’s involvement in Syria and Iraq, as well as seeking answers for Turkey’s ailing economy.

It is what the CHP does from here on out, Starr wrote, which will decide whether İmamoğlu is the man to take on Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presidential election slated for 2023.