Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently sent an unexpected and stern ultimatum to his fellow party members, saying that he would expel anyone who participated in an intraparty race for chairmanship. Having been defeated in the April 16 constitutional referendum, Kılıçdaroğlu has recently come under fire from dissidents within his party.
Defying the criticism, the chairman threatened fellow CHP members on Tuesday in the party's regular parliamentary group meeting. "Intraparty struggle, intraparty fights… I will never allow an intraparty fight. I will have those fighting outside the door if need be," he said. Şahin Mengü, a former CHP deputy and a renowned figure within the party, told Daily Sabah that Kılıçdaroğlu's remarks were "anti-democratic." Stressing that silencing intraparty voices has never taken place in the history of the CHP, Mengü said that such a move would put the party in the same pot with others.
According to sources, the results of the April 16 referendum and the strategy followed by party executives were evaluated during the CHP's Party Assembly meeting in late April. The meeting was closed-door and lasted more than seven hours. During the meeting, some deputy chairmen were criticized, saying that they were "insufficient" in their own fields. On that note, Party Assembly members requested to renew the (Central Executive Committee) MYK by electing its members, including 12 deputy chairmen and the general secretary of the CHP.
Mahmut Övür, a columnist for the Sabah newspaper who has covered the CHP for many years, said that most CHP delegates are for Kılıçdaroğlu, which makes it difficult for dissidents to overthrow him. "However, they do not believe that Kılıçdaroğlu could win the 2019 elections," Övür said, pointing to the dilemma within the party. Some party members recently demanded an extraordinary congress be held to elect executives of the party. Despite the requests, Kılıçdaroğlu reportedly shrugged off the dissidents.
"Even though Kılıçdaroğlu stresses the importance of democracy and upholds freedom of speech, he is trying to silence the dissidents," Övür said, adding that the CHP chairman does not really care about the said principles.
According to rumors circulating in Turkish media outlets, CHP deputy Muharrem İnce knuckled down to run for chairmanship in a possible extraordinary congress.
Deniz Baykal, a veteran politician who served in Parliament for the CHP for many years as chairman, is also one of the dissidents.
Speaking on a Turkish TV channel on Monday night, Baykal said he would be by Kılıçdaroğlu's side in the presidential race for 2019 if he decides to be a candidate. "But if he does not, he should resign from his leadership position," said Baykal, adding that the to-be-determined presidential candidate should also become the CHP leader.
However, Baykal pointed to former President Abdullah Gül as the appropriate candidate in 2019. Emphasizing that Turkey has entered a new era with the referendum, Baykal asserted that former President Abdullah Gül would have a great chance to win if he decides to run for the election.
CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu has drawn wide-ranging criticism for his poor showing in elections and referendums since he took office in the CHP in 2010, after Baykal resigned over a sex tape scandal. Kılıçdaroğlu has lost eight times in elections and referendums so far.
The CHP held its 35th ordinary congress in Ankara on Jan. 16-17, 2016, and Kılıçdaroğlu was re-elected as the party's leader with 990 of the 1,238 votes. He entered the congress as the only candidate, which was interpreted by some as lack of competitiveness in the party.
Mengü, however, said that it had nothing to do with despotism or authoritarianism in the party that Kılıçdaroğlu was the only candidate in the ordinary congress.
Meanwhile in a press conference yesterday, CHP Vice Chairman Tekin Bingöl said that the party's central executive board has launched the procedures for the party's 36th leadership caucus. Bingöl added that the date will be determined by the party caucus. In addition, Bingöl also said that Mersin Deputy Fikri Sağlar was referred to the party's disciplinary board for his conduct in the party and during the referendum campaign after he criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for the party's poor results in the April 16 referendum vote. Sağlar responded to the decision in an interiew on CNN Türk broadcster yesterday saying he was sad to find out about the decision.
The CHP has previously referred several names to the disciplinary committee. While former CHP Deputy Birgül Ayman Güler was referred to the committee in 2014 for claiming that the CHP collaborated with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the March 30 local elections, CHP member Cemil Can was expelled from the party for the criticism. Süheyl Batum and Dilek Akagün Yılmaz were expelled from the party. The two are known for their neo-nationalist stance. Also, Aylin Nazlıaka was discharged from party last year over her previous remarks that a CHP deputy had taken down a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. She refused to name the deputy. According to the bylaws of the CHP, any party member who attempts to spoil the order in the party can be temporarily expelled until an ultimate decision is made by the committee.