Post-election reckoning looming in CHP

Published 10.06.2018 00:00
Updated 10.06.2018 22:28

According to the latest public surveys, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has around 25 percent support. At the end of the day, it is unlikely that the CHP's presidential candidate Muharrem İnce will win.

İnce may not become the next president, but he still can provide a breath of fresh air to a party that has lost a presidential election, five general and three local elections, in addition to three referenda in the past 16 years.

His strong performance during this election campaign has given rise to the hope that he can finally energize the CHP as a constructive force in Turkish politics and turn it into a party that can advocate policies less than a century old.

The CHP is tired and it shows. Its policies are stuck somewhere before World War II. It has no idea what the public wants and it's no wonder it has failed to provide an alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). We know what the CHP is against but have no idea what it is for in this day and age. Its mentality lags the society it wants to represent and its priorities.

The CHP has a two-pronged strategy for the June 24 elections campaign. The one for the parliamentary elections is led by Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the presidential campaign is led by İnce.

Both are actively campaigning every day, with Kılıçdaroğlu meeting businessmen, nongovernmental organizations and other groups in small halls while İnce holds mass rallies in public squares. This alone demonstrates the differing vision of the two.

One, just like the ideology of the party, is imprisoned in a self-perpetuating loop where a shrinking like-minded group meets and agrees on the need to take the country to somewhere in the past.

İnce, meanwhile, is trying to break free of the classic CHP mould and attract new voters. He is trying to do his best while wearing the CHP straitjacket. He is trying to reach out to more than just the elite, but also to farmers, Kurds and even religious conservatives.

While it is improbable that İnce will win any elections under the current circumstances, he at least displays an inkling of the vision to initiate a change that the CHP desperately needs. In the past, he twice lost the chairmanship to Kılıçdaroğlu. The next time around, he will have the momentum behind him.

If İnce receives more support as a presidential candidate than Kılıçdaroğlu's CHP, then he will have the democratic legitimacy and grassroots support to take him on.

However, Kılıçdaroğlu, with the anti-democratic party machinery fully behind him, will do his best to keep his seat despite no apparent vision or desire to improve his party's lot. If this comes to pass, İnce and his supporters are likely go it alone, leaving the CHP weak and rudderless.

The June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections are primarily democratic contests among political parties, with the AK Party favored to win both. However, no one should overlook the equally important intraparty contests taking place in the background, where the CHP has a chance to score its own win.

On June 25, the two losers of the CHP will start to battle it out once and for all. Who emerges from the wreckage will determine the future of the CHP.

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