Turkish main opposition deputies may leave for new party - columnist

At least three deputies are considering leaving the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), according to Hürriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi.

İzmir Deputy Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Karabük deputy Hüseyin Avni Aksoy are frustrated with the direction of the CHP under party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and want a more steadfast commitment to the values of modern Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Selvi said on Wednesday.

The deputies, known as the ‘October 29 force’, an apparent reference to the controversial Ergenekon investigations, also have the support of Yalova deputy Özcan Özel, he said.

Ergenekon was an allegedly clandestine secular-nationalist organisation seeking to overthrow the government. From the early 2000s onwards, hundreds of members of Turkey’s military and political establishment were investigated for links to the group, including Çelebi, who was detained for 41 months. The investigation has now been widely discredited as politically motivated and based on fabricated evidence.

In a letter to the CHP leadership late last year, the ‘October 29 force’ expressed their dissatisfaction with Kılıçdaroğlu’s strategy of building a broad-based opposition alliance against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Selvi said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu is reported to favour former AKP grandee Abdullah Gül as a unity candidate to challenge Erdoğan at the next presidential election. But Çelebi and Aksoy are opposed to such a move, accusing Gül of complicity in the Ergenekon investigations during his time in government, the columnist said.

The ‘October 29 force’ are also concerned the CHP’s identity is at risk of being sacrificed in an effort to cooperate with other political parties, Selvi said.

“Constantly bringing ‘friends’ to the fore reinforces the perception that the party that founded the Republic has no chance to come to power with its own values ​​and struggle.”

A possible alliance with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was particularly contentious, he said.   

"The relationship between those whose light is (Abdullah) Öcalan (founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and whose light is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk should be as much as it should be," Selvi cited Çelebi as saying.

Çelebi and his colleagues are therefore considering following former CHP presidential candidate Muharrem İnce and founding a new party, Selvi said.

İnce, who narrowly lost to Erdoğan in the 2018 presidential election, recently unveiled his own political platform but remains a member of the CHP.