The 18th extraordinary congress of the Republican People's Party (CHP) resulted in a Phyrric victory for incumbent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and triggered a new wave of controversy within the party. On Saturday, party members were immediately working hard to get their candidates elected to the Party Assembly, the CHP's 60-strong board of executives, and making initial assessments about the party's next chairman. Muharrem İnce, who recently resigned as minority whip to challenge Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, delivered an impressive speech at the congress but failed to clinch the leadership – which, of course, does not mean that he is permanently out of the competition.
Given the above-mentioned circumstances, the CHP congress encouraged a number of hopefuls. In addition to growing speculation about former chairman Deniz Baykal making a comeback to the leadership, jurist Metin Feyzioğlu, who was recently involved in a public debacle with then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, remains one of the alternatives.
Whether or not new faces could enter the race, of course, will depend on the final outcome of the Party Assembly contest which has not been short of surprises and blunders. During the most recent congress, over 600 politicians have expressed an interest in joining the top ranks of the leadership. On one hand, the race featured familiar faces such as Secretary-General Gürsel Tekin and deputy chairpersons Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Erdoğan Toprak—who, surprisingly enough, received just a few votes too little to qualify for the Party Assembly. Meanwhile, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu endorsed a number of recent signings including former Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Enis Berberoğlu, Islamist politician Mehmet Bekaroğlu and former Ergenekon defendant Tuncay Özkan. Ahead of the congress, the CHP chairman notably rushed to the defense of Mr. Bekaroğlu, failure to vote for whom, he said, would be a personal affront to himself.
The 18th extraordinary congress, surely enough, ended up dealing a serious blow to incumbent Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, as his rival, Mr. İnce, managed to secure an impressive 415 votes over a three-week campaign period. The current situation suggests that Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu's victory might keep him on his seat for a while, but losing the 2015 parliamentary elections could cause serious problems within the main opposition party. The Party Assembly race, of course, was more colorful as candidates sought to distinguish themselves through elaborate ads, chants and handouts – which made me think: Why do they not work this hard on election campaigns?