Turkey’s main opposition leader re-elected in CHP convention

(Releads with Kılıçdaroğlu's re-election)

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was re-elected chairman of the party, running unopposed and winning 1,251 out of 1,318 votes in the party's 37th convention on Saturday.

"We have all signed the same declaration as we enter (Turkey's) second century," Kılıçdaroğlu said in his speech after the re-election. "By signing this declaration, we have taken on a historic responsibility."

"We will crown our republic with democracy on its centenary," he added, promising to win the general elections scheduled for 2023.

Kılıçdaroğlu repeated CHP's plans for peace in the Middle East, based on "family ties", joint history and common culture Turkey's citizens have with Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In his opening speech on Saturday morning, Kılıçdaroğlu announced a 13-point declaration to serve as a roadmap to winning elections and coming to power.

In the declaration, titled “Call to the Second Century,’’ Kılıçdaroğlu said the CHP vowed to achieve peace in the country and resolve the country’s issues, “including the Kurdish issue, on the basis of democracy and under the lead of Parliament.”

The convention started on Saturday morning, and continues at the time this article was published with speeches from provincial delegates. Following the speeches, the CHP is set to elect its new leader, and move to elect the 60-person caucus and 15-person disciplinary board on Sunday.

CHP is set to layout a blueprint to “eliminate unemployment, poverty, incompetency, and hopelessness,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in his opening speech.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have ruled Turkey for 18 years, “but nobody in Parliament knows where the 2.4 trillion liras ($350 billion) they spent went,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, criticizing Erdoğan’s privatization-based economic policies.

“The foundation of our social peace has been blown to bits,” the CHP leader said. “The government is polarising society and building its policies on that foundation.”

Kılıçdaroğlu called for cooperation with “friends,” and the Millet (“Nation”) Alliance, made up of three centre-right opposition parties alongside the centre-left CHP.

“We will tear down the pharaoh’s rule and replace it with (the rule) of the people instead,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, emphasising a mending of the nation’s sense of justice.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s 13-point declaration called for a return to the parliamentarian system, a demand supported by all opposition parties in the country after Turkey’s transition into an executive presidency with the 2017 referendum and 2018 general elections.

The opposition leader also stressed in his speech press freedom, gender equality, anti-nepotism, political ethics, anti-corruption efforts, a change to the election system, improved welfare options, environmentalism, better strategic planning for the country, freedom of expression and autonomy for universities, and “peace in the Middle East,” through the establishment of the Middle East Peace and Cooperation Organisation.

CHP will “strengthen the independent and unitary structure of Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, going against the long-standing Kurdish demand for autonomous regions, but said the “relationship between the central and local (governments) will be rebuilt” to “most effectively utilise the full capacity of the state” and “serve the people better.”

CHP is also planning to end the practice of appointing government-controlled officials to replace elected mayors, who have taken over 51 out of 65 municipalities won by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in last year’s local elections.

CHP is planning to remove Turkey’s 10 percent election threshold and introduce quotas to ensure representation for women. It is also going to focus on the “squandering of public money,” and improve the Court of Accounts to have better oversight on public spending.

Delegates speaking in the convention expressed support for the Istanbul Convention that focuses on prevention of gendered violence, and criticised the party’s insufficient opposition to the transition to the executive presidential system.

İlhan Cihaner, former CHP deputy and current caucus member, criticised the convention for a lack of gravity and said a binding decision for the future of the party could not be made under the circumstances.

Cihaner also criticised party delegates for following Kılıçdaroğlu out of the hall after his speech.

Cihaner, CHP Mersin deputy Aytuğ Atıcı, and caucus member Tolga Yarman had announced their intention to run against Kılıçdaroğlu in the election for party chair. However, Kılıçdaroğlu ran unopposed, as none of the candidates were able to gather the necessary signatures from convention delegates.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.