Turkey's main opposition on the brink of division

Published 04.07.2018 23:40

In last week's column, I had assessed Turkey's June 24 elections and stated that the results might lead to a division in the main opposition party. Less than a week later, there have been major developments concerning my prediction. The Republican People's Party (CHP) received 22.6 percent of the vote in the last elections and the repercussions of this heavy smack-down for the CHP electorate continues. The electorate is rebelling over the fact that the CHP was defeated by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has been in power for 16 years and received 42.5 percent of the vote on June 24. Despite losing all nine elections since he took the helm of the party in 2010, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu still remains the party's chairman. He might have glossed over this result, too, for he is quite skillful in silencing intraparty opposition as a politician with a bureaucratic background, even if he is not successful facing his rivals.

However, Muharrem İnce, who ran as the party's presidential candidate, received 30.8 percent of the vote, shooting ahead of the CHP itself in terms of voting rates – which has put Kılıçdaroğlu in an awkward position. Even though he lagged President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the winner of the elections, by 22 percent, he has earned widespread respect in his party.

During a dinner with Kılıçdaroğlu earlier in the week, İnce requested that the party administration convene, proposing: "Convene the general assembly and hand over the chairmanship to me. You become the honorary chairman. Otherwise, the organization will handle the business."

How Kılıçdaroğlu will react to this menacing proposal has raised everyone's curiosity. While Kılıçdaroğlu did not make any statement after the meeting, it is possible to guess what he will do by looking at the measures he took before the elections.

For example, Kılıçdaroğlu's first step was to remove İnce from the party by nominating him against his strong rival Erdoğan when he personally did not have the courage to compete against the incumbent. Then, he sidelined all the figures in the party who were on good terms with İnce.

However, Kılıçdaroğlu's plan backfired. Despite the discrepancy of 11 million votes, İnce competed with Erdoğan and gained prestige in the eyes of the electorate. Moreover, he did not repeat the oft-told story that the "votes were stolen," which the opposition has claimed after every election for years.

He bravely appeared for the cameras and congratulated Erdoğan, saying, "What else will we accept other than a clear election victory?" He added that he would be a candidate in the next elections and win.

This realistic and ambitious attitude of İnce has created hope for the opposition electorate who have been waiting for electoral victory for years. Well, what kind of future lies ahead of the CHP? The answer is hidden in the codes and practices of the CHP, which are older than the modern republic that was founded in 1923. Designed according to the one-party system that was common throughout the world at the beginning of the 20th century, the party's chairmanship is equipped with extraordinary powers.

Therefore, Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to resist by using all the opportunities he has, which may lead İnce to found a new party with CHP dissenters.

To sum up, although Turkey solved the problem of power on June 24, it has been busy with the problem of the main opposition. In the end, the real problem in Turkey's politics remains the lack of a true opposition capable of controlling and directing the government.

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