Turkish opposition leaders Kılıçdaroğlu, Babacan agree on Kurdish opposition, parliament, oversight

Ali Babacan, former minister and current leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), met with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in CHP’s headquarters. The meeting came as Babacan looks for partnership opportunities with opposition parties on the basis of democracy and the law.

Kılıçdaroğlu had met with Ahmet Davutoğlu, former prime minister and leader of another newly-fledged opposition Future Party (GP), in the GP’s Istanbul chapter offices in an unscheduled last-minute addition to his program last week.

Both Babacan and Davutoğlu established their parties after leaving the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and both say the party they worked for for years has lost its way.

Babacan had DEVA deputy chairpersons İbrahim Halil Çanakcı, Sadullah Ergin, Mustafa Yeneroğlu and Sanem Oktar with him in the meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu, who was accompanied by CHP Secretary General Selin Sayek Böke, Party Spokesman Faik Öztrak, and deputy chairmen Muharrem Erkek and Oğuz Kağan Salıcı.

The two leaders held a press conference afterwards, and told reporters that the theme of the meeting had been an exchange of viewpoints on the Fortified Parliamentary System, a revised version of Turkey’s previous system of governance that opposition parties want to implement. Turkey had switched to an Executive Presidential System that has fewer checks and balances, following the 2018 elections. They also discussed current issues in Turkey.

According to officials from both parties who spoke to Ahval anonymously, the meetings were very positive. Both leaders shared their similar views on issues related to the economy in particular, and the collapse in the judiciary as well as foreign policy.

A critical piece of information the officials provided was that both parties agree that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) should be part of the search for common ground among the opposition.

HDP had sought a meeting with DEVA before the Kılıçdaroğlu meeting, and the two parties have since agreed on a date. A HDP delegation including co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar will visit DEVA shortly, and then visit the CHP as well.

The pro-Kurdish HDP is the second-largest opposition group in parliament, and the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish-majority eastern and southeastern provinces in the country. The AKP’s far-right coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and top-level officials of the MHP have made repeated calls to shut the party down, and one MHP lawmaker recently said the HDP should be “eradicated.”

Babacan and Kılıçdaroğlu both disagree with the calls for shut down, and attempts to exclude the HDP. The leaders agree that a legal political party and its millions of voters can’t be ignored.

On the other hand, next week Babacan is set to meet with centre-right Good Party (İYİP) leader Meral Akşener, who had served as interior minister during the height of the Kurdish conflict in the 1990s, and his former colleague in government Davutoğlu the week after.

CHP and DEVA officials told Ahval that the CHP’s efforts for the Fortified Parliamentary System are nearly finished, and a draft document would be shared with DEVA and other opposition parties in coming days after the central committee resolves the final details.

Kılıçdaroğlu and Babacan decided to continue regular meetings between CHP and DEVA, and the two opposition parties will continue to discuss details for the proposed fortified parliamentary system via delegations led by CHP’s Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek and DEVA’s Deputy Chairman Mustafa Yeneroğlu.

One official who attended the meeting said both sides were avoiding an approach that would impose their own views on the other, or push for unconditional agreement. The official said:

“First, the goal and target of this meeting was to identify commonalities. In that, there has been significant progress made. It was seen that regarding many topics, there was a shared understanding. Both we and the other party continue to work on our own texts, but the goal here is to push forward the common points in these efforts and to hold back disputed topics, so we can prepare the widest basis for reconciliation and acting together. The most prioritised common point that we have agreed on has been the severe collapse of the judicial system and the intense pressure courts face to become politicised.

We also strongly agreed on the need to rebuild the separation of powers. There is agreement on many points, like the need to strengthen the oversight function of parliament, to establish a mechanism for votes of confidence, to restructure parliament to take the oversight function further, etc. To add the non-budgetary funds, including the Wealth Fund and the public-private partnership projects, to the budget and thus ensure parliamentary oversight and control on these funds that have turned into blackholes. To support democracy and freedoms, and to have transparent governance for the economy. To put up barriers against arbitrary acts in all areas including the economy, judiciary, budget, and foreign policy.”

The leaders didn’t discuss a possibility to form an alliance or for DEVA to join the Millet (Nation) alliance, currently made up of CHP, İYİP and the Democrat Party (DP), according to sources who spoke to Ahval, and believe that it’s too early to discuss such a matter at the current stage.

They also refrained from discussing the possibility for CHP to lend DEVA 20 members of parliament so the party can form a group and guarantee that the newly-fledged party can enter elections, should there be a snap election between now and 2023, when the next scheduled elections will be held. CHP had done a similar thing for the İYİP when the party first broke away from the MHP in 2017.



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