The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) concluded his 430-kilometer (267-mile) march, which started a day after one of its deputies was given a prison sentence on espionage charges, with a rally in Istanbul on Sunday. While CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu believes the march will have a huge influence on politics, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are critical and tie it to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and the PKK. Political studies director of think tank SETA, Nebi Miş, believes the march is more about Kılıçdaroğlu's future ambitions than any considerations on justice.
Political scientist Dr. Nebi Miş from SETA Foundation said Kılıçdaroğlu's march aims to secure his chairmanship and a presidential nomination in 2019.
Underlining that the CHP administration aims to mobilize different segments of society, Dr. Miş believes that this march is far from likely to unite the opposition and thus its impact on Turkish domestic politics will be limited. According to Dr. Miş, in the following days, intra-politics within the CHP will start to criticize Kılıçdaroğlu for becoming the mouthpiece of FETÖ and cooperating with the HDP and this march will be discussed for several more weeks before fading away.
Daily Sabah: In your opinion, what led CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to start the "justice march?" How do you regard the concept of justice in this context?
Nebi Miş: We have to start with why the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu launched this march and specifically why now. Currently, there are two intraparty groups in conflict: On one side, there are pro-status quo Kemalists, while on the other side there is Kılıçdaroğlu and his board of administrators. These groups are also in conflict ideologically. In this context, Kılıçdaroğlu has been long under pressure from radical leftist circles to commence street demonstrations against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). This was made apparent after April 16 referendum, as certain groups, especially those closer to the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), tried to draw the CHP to the streets. During the following intraparty conflicts, as you know, the party's spokesperson, Selin Sayek Böke, resigned from her post. On the other hand, the Kemalist bloc within the party, which includes previous chairman Deniz Baykal, is criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu for pushing them away from the central administration. Even though it is not voiced in the public, there are discussions about Kılıçdaroğlu and the current party staff being closer to the HDP's policies and FETÖ's discourse. Kılıçdaroğlu is trying to achieve a balance in this process. He had to act in order to secure his chairmanship. Now, the process, which started with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks and resulted in Enis Berberoğlu's arrest, allowed him an opportunity hard to miss.
On the other hand, I believe using the term "justice" for this march is wrong. One cannot seek justice through injustice. Let me explain what I'm saying. Firstly, this march is a consequence of the MİT trucks incident. This incident was actually a setup by FETÖ that was served to the media with the intention of altering the results of the June 7 elections in 2015. Their endgame was to condemn the government and the state at the International Criminal Tribunal. It was found out that Enis Berberoğlu, who was the CHP deputy chairman at the time, had obtained these confidential documents from FETÖ members and served them to the media. He was arrested for this reason.Think about it: A criminal organization organized various state institutions and set up the state-owned trucks carrying aid. The perpetrators of these machinations were revealed through indictments. Now, we see that the CHP is marching to oppose the court decisions. Therefore, the march had nothing to do with being just or justice in general. Their understanding of justice is one-sided and completely subjective. This march is the part of a political agenda. I believe their main agenda is to secure Kılıçdaroğlu's chairmanship and then nominate him as the presidential candidate in 2019. In this respect, this march, which actually is political activism, aims to mobilize different segments of the society.
On the other hand, there are allegations that Enis Berberoğlu had informed Kılıçdaroğlu prior to serving these documents to the media and therefore Kılıçdaroğlu himself could also become part of this judicial process. Furthermore, Kılıçdaroğlı had visited FETÖ's newspaper, Zaman, with a CHP delegacy including Enis Berberoğlu on May 17, 2015, and Kılıçdaroğlu made a statement that he watched the recordings of the incident. Considering all of these factors, we can clearly say that only a part of this incident was uncovered. As the investigation deepens, we will begin to see the remaining facets of the incident. In this regard, Kılıçdaroğlu might have organized the march to tackle the possibility of him becoming a suspect in this espionage investigation.
DS: Considering it as a whole, did the march appeal to all segments of society?
NM: After the referendum, the CHP wrongfully believed that those who voted "no" were a monolithic bloc, however, it is not the case. There are many different groups among those that constitute the 48 percent of the "no" vote. As far as I can see, the CHP visited around eight political parties or prominent political figures. None of them yielded substantial results; there was no synergy as the parties visited by the CHP had almost a nonexistent voter base.
They aimed to make a bloc out of this 48 percent and consolidate them for the 2019 presidential elections. Of course, this march became a discussion topic in the public, media and the international community. However, it is highly improbable that this march will yield a political result.
For instance, during the Gezi Park Protests of 2013, many argued that the Turkish political system could not stay the same, a new political order had emerged and everything would be redesigned. Yet, as the results suggest, political parties like the CHP and the HDP realized that this discourse had little effect on the political system. Moreover, the violent acts during the Gezi Park Protests created a new fear which resulted in the consolidation of the AK Party voter base. As the CHP administration realized this fact, they made peace an essential component of this march. Therefore, in my opinion, this march will be discussed for several weeks more and then it will fade away.
DS: While many political parties refrain from supporting the march, we see that the HDP clearly supports it and had deputies participating in the march. What is your take on this subject?
During the planning stage of the march, the CHP decided that the march was not to be made a party specific event as it was desired by Kılıçdaroğlu. They aimed to gain support from all segments of society by inviting them to the march with this decision. In this respect, the support of the HDP is completely normal, however, considering the intraparty conflict between the Kemalist bloc and Kılıçdaroğlu's radical leftist bloc, the HDP's existence was to put Kılıçdaroğlu in a difficult position. Even though the CHP desired the HDP attending the march, fearing the reaction of its own voter base, they didn't want the HDP to be too apparent. On the other hand, they couldn't reject the HDP as they have been trying to appeal to the HDP voter base, especially the radical leftists, for some time now.
I would like to underscore the timing of the HDP's participation in the march. They attended the march right after the killing of two AK Party local administrators by the PKK in southeastern Anatolia. Yet, none of the CHP administrators who claim that the aim of the march asked the representatives of the HDP, the mouthpiece of the PKK, what they were thinking about these atrocious actions.
Therefore, it could be said that the CHP and HDP have a common political discourse and even political actions. Still, as the CHP is afraid of its Kemalist voter base, they are hesitant in announcing this partnership.
Do you believe another round of discussions on the party leadership will start after the march?
Especially from the 1990s onwards, the CHP has always been in search of a leader - that's why they hold many party congresses. Therefore, as it was the case before the April 16 referendum, the CHP will continue to seek a new leader. These discussions will be important on the way to the congress.
For instance, Ümit Kocasakal, the former Istanbul Bar president who is known for having close ties with the CHP, has viciously criticized the aforementioned march. "I won't march along those who cooperate with imperialist forces and who have issues with the territorial integrity of this country, with Atatürk and the republic itself," he said. Similarly, former CHP Chairman Deniz Baykal didn't support the march. In the following days, these blocs within the CHP will start to criticize Kılıçdaroğlu for becoming the mouthpiece of FETÖ and cooperating with the HDP. Nevertheless, it is hard to predict the results at this point, because the CHP's delegation system and administrative structure were overhauled during Kılıçdaroğlu's chairmanship.
As a political scientist, in your opinion, what should the CHP do to consolidate the said 48 percent under its banner and gain more support to secure the 2019 presidential elections?
Firstly, if the CHP aims to win votes from every segment of society, they should have some realistic policies. Realistic policies mean that they shouldn't shift according to political conjuncture, they shouldn't rely on populism and it shouldn't be short-term. Their first aim should be the creation of an ideal and its presentation to the public. This ideal has to materialize as a political project. They should have a credible project in terms of the economy and foreign policy. Furthermore, they should be able to manage the society's hope for the future masterfully. They should also make some statements about Turkey's survival as the country is currently under siege. In this sense, one cannot have realistic policies in Turkey if they echo the policies of the HDP or if they become the mouthpiece of FETÖ.
Today, the CHP's most prominent function is to oppose the AK Party. As the AK Party has been the ruling party for 15 years, there will be disagreements and those who will leave the party. There will be people who are angry toward the AK Party or who want to punish the AK Party. The CHP is able to construct a political discourse by channeling these frustrations, however, it is nothing more than a populist and shortsighted version of politics. In the long term, these populist policies won't be taken seriously by the people. As the results of the elections suggest, Turkish voters are rational. They always seek to secure their future.
While commenting on the CHP's march, the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) claimed it actually was the "Pennsylvania march," referring to FETÖ. Do you believe that these claims are justified?
Why the AK Party and the MHP are referring to FETÖ while commenting on the CHP's march is an important question. They have several reasons for that. Firstly, there was a search for compromise in Turkish politics after the July 15 coup attempt; this was what the people of Turkey demanded from politicians. The people argued that FETÖ's coup attempt was more of an invasion attempt and wanted political parties to leave their differences aside in order to have a united front against FETÖ. This was also a finding of our institution's field research that was conducted during the democracy watch after the coup attempt; all political parties' voter bases had the expectation of a compromise. As the CHP observed this apparent notion in the public, they were obliged to attend the Yenikapı meeting. Nevertheless, today we understand that the CHP's attitude towards FETÖ was not definite. Looking retrospectively at the CHP meetings, we can see that they have never uttered FETÖ as the perpetrator of the coup. For instance, the CHP had held a meeting at Taksim and announced articles that were referred to as Taksim Manifesto. However, there isn't even one article about FETÖ attempting a coup. They state that everyone should fight against the perpetrators, but they never specify who the perpetrator is.
Similarly, the CHP didn't lend its support in the cleansing of the state from FETÖ members. Moreover, when the trials of the putschists were about to start, the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu started to echo the discourse of FETÖ in order to create a suspicion among the public and the international community. They claimed that it was actually a controlled coup, which were the exact words uttered by FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen a day after the coup attempt. Unfortunately, Kılıçdaroğlu reiterated what Gülen said. He tried to trivialize the coup attempt, alter the reality and even erase them from the public memory. As if these weren't enough, he attempted to question the state of emergency announced against FETÖ by asserting that the coup was actually realized on July 20.
Now, when we look at the slogans and discourse of the march, there are striking similarities with the ones that were used by FETÖ. Furthermore, the CHP prepared and submitted an alternative report to the Parliament's Coup Inquiry Commission, which was built on the discourse of a controlled coup. This alternative report was then appropriated by FETÖ members, translated into different languages and started to be used by them for their own defense.
This march says nothing about FETÖ or the people that were victimized by the terrorist organization. For this reason, the AK Party and the MHP believe that this march has some connections with FETÖ.
The AK Party was always complaining that Turkey was suffering from an inadequate opposition. Do you believe that this 'justice march' transformed the main opposition into an effective opposition?
First of all, this cannot be deemed as an adequate opposition. Street politics is a kind of political activism and it is beneficial in terms of publicity. However, in the long term it doesn't offer anything substantial to the public. Also, it is a negative political discourse which frightens the majority of the population. In this regard, I don't believe that this is the new oppositional movement of the CHP. Nothing has changed in terms of the CHP's policies on economy, foreign affairs and so forth. This is nothing but activism.
Why is the AK Party against the march? The AK Party believes that this march will hurt the fight against FETÖ. As this march is being marketed to the international community, the AK Party is concerned that it will alter Turkey's international perception and harm Turkey's efforts to thwart FETÖ internationally. On the other hand, while the Middle East suffers from intense crises, internal conflicts could weaken Turkey's hand in negotiations. On top of all things, Daesh members preparing to attack the march were captured at the very last moment. Therefore, there is also a possibility for provocation. Considering all of these facts, I believe there is nothing more natural than the ruling party criticizing such activism. The AK Party also has to express to its own voter base that this is not a march about justice, but that it is being supported by various actors and that a political discourse is being developed. In short, the AK Party is a political party that needs the support of its voter base. For this reason, they are voicing complaints about the march.