Turkish politics have been shaken as the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce received more than 30 percent of the votes in the June 24 presidential election. Coming to the agenda with intraparty rifts for years, the CHP is once again confronted with a leadership fight as of late.
Earlier this week, İnce spoke in front of the cameras and said that during a dinner he had with the CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, he told Kılıçdaroğlu that he wished to take the leadership seat. Apparently, Kılıçdaroğlu responded negatively to this proposal, and said that such a move is politically inconsiderate.
The rivalry between İnce and Kılıçdaroğlu is not a new one. Previously, İnce ran for the chairmanship of the party but could not be elected in the party convention. However, the recent rift has several new aspects.
First of all, it is not yet known how İnce's vote share will affect the balances within the party. The delegates supporting Kılıçdaroğlu so far might side with İnce this time.
On the other hand, there are some serious contradictions in İnce's statements. Until last week, he was saying that he would not enter a leadership race against Kılıçdaroğlu, who presented İnce as the presidential candidate. For instance, in an interview he gave to Fox TV before the elections, İnce said that he will not run against Kılıçdaroğlu if he is defeated in the election.
These promises are seemingly forgotten now. Evidently, 30 percent means a great success for the CHP, which boosts İnce's prestige within the party. But in my opinion, İnce has been captivated by the masses supporting him and overwhelmed by his ego since the June 24 elections. He did not keep his promises and preferred an option that has a very slight change of successwith minimal risk. Being the stronghold of the Kemalist regime, the CHP steps into action to turn the party back to its roots whenever dynamism is shown in the party leading to an increase in popular support.
I think İnce will yield to CHP traditions if he remains in the party. Also, since the CHP has an unshakable public image that is hard to change after all these years, it is very difficult for İnce to change this image even though he endeavors to do so. He could have made permanent contributions to Turkish politics had he taken a risk and founded a new party.
The Turkish society and state developed close ties thanks to the reforms and endeavors of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the past 16 years. Prior to that, a mindset that prioritized a secular-Sunni-Turkish identity was prevalent in the state whereas the state mechanisms were controlled by a modernist, elitist and ultra-secularist group. This mindset regarded the headscarf and Kurdish identity as threats, while labeling the citizens of Armenian and Greek descent as potential enemies. Erdoğan put an end to this and enabled the marginalized masses to be treated as and feel like equal citizens.
In our collective memory, the CHP still stands out as the leading institution that invited this inequality. Therefore, the party's chances of coming to power are very poor. Nevertheless, the politicians are lured by the intraparty power struggle and prefer to stay in their comfort zone rather than mapping a new route for themselves.It is a shame that Turkey's main opposition party cannot overcome such conflicts for years. A change in leadership necessitates an array of major changes and preliminary works. But there is no time for that ahead of the local elections.
In a nutshell, İnce was a promising figure for the strengthening of the main opposition. But the latest rift unfortunately showed that there is no change within the CHP.