Some Turkish newspapers claim the Republican People's Party (CHP) is planning to send a delegation to the U.S. to discuss the results and implications of the March 30 local elections with U.S. delegates and think tanks. Whether or not this story is true, I would like to mention the underlying reasons for the CHP's chronic failure at the ballots.
The ambivalent nature of the CHP
When former leader Deniz Baykal was in charge of the party, the CHP adopted an ultra-nationalist and secularist approach.
However, with the arrival of the current leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the discourse of the "new CHP" led to uncertainty among voters. Kılıçdaroğlu benefited not only from left-wing jargon and its characters but also gave way to right-wing candidates.
He even made the "Grey Wolves" hand signal with the far-right Ankara mayoral candidate. Additionally, in some conservative districts, the CHP presented candidates from the circle of the late leader of the National Vision, Necmettin Erbakan.
The CHP's right-wing candidates showed off in election campaign posters using the hand signal of the National Vision.
Their mixed views did not succeed in creating trust among voters but rather caused an entirely different result.
Statist reflexes of the CHP
The CHP's statist reflexes imply that the party underwent a significant change and is in favor of a more progressive democracy than the AK Party. The CHP did not support the AK Party's moves in the Turkish-Kurdish peace process and extension of rights to non-Muslims, but rather threw a wrench in the works. While the AK Party proposed a bill entitling defendants to present their court defenses in Kurdish, the CHP rejected the proposal, citing division in the country. In addition, the AK Party gradually returned the goods of non-Muslim foundations seized by the government at the time of the CHP's oneparty regime. However, the CHP did not take a step back as one of its representatives said, "Will we protect the goods of minorities?"
Although the CHP features a campaign slogan based on a "new" discourse, it sustained early regime reflexes. This uncertainty did not give an impression to voters that the CHP would be an alternative to the AK Party in the democratization process.
The CHP continues to carefully hide its party image with reactionary tendencies by sending its most democratic representatives to Europe and the U.S. The negative language of the CHP Professor Tarık Yılmaz compared the eight election rally speeches of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu. Here are some of his results:
Erdoğan used the words "solution," "vision" and "project" 69 times, while Kılıçdaroğlu only used these words five times. Erdoğan mentioned the words "road," "school" and "hospital" 220 times.
In contrast, Kılıçdaroğlu used these words 13 times. Comparing the language used by these two political leaders makes it clear that there is only 26 percent negative discourse in Erdoğan's speeches, while this figure reached 63 percent in Kılıçdaroğlu's speeches.
In light of the fact that main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu focused all his election rally speeches on unseating Erdoğan from power and the illegal wiretaps, he didn't manage to create a sense of hope in the public and the party failed to present itself as a real alternative. The CHP left some questions unanswered, including whether Erdoğan would be unseated, how the shattered economy would recover, how the CHP would behave if the Kurdish peace process collapsed and what the CHP's alternative policies are against the AK Party's successful service policies.
We can also conclude that Kılıçdaroğlu cannot act as a leader and people still remember the CHP's oppressive attacks, including the Dersim Rebellion and support for the headscarf prohibition. As long as the CHP fails to present a vision or project other than toppling Erdoğan, it cannot escape its failure.