Dissidents in the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) have almost reached a quorum, necessary to call for an extraordinary convention that may replace the party leadership, including Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Mehmet Ali Çelebi, CHP İzmir deputy who previously announced his support for the change in the party, said Friday that 600 signatures have been collected for the convention so far. The number is expected to reach the quorum soon.
According to CHP bylaws, 634 delegates must submit their signatures to party headquarters within 15 days after the process was officially started, which was Monday. If all the signatures are collected before the deadline, the CHP is obliged to hold an extraordinary convention within 45 days.
Çelebi added that if there isn't a change in the party leadership, it will likely face another disappointing defeat in the local elections scheduled for March 2019.
"Some 600 signatures have been collected. Even this number by itself is a major message [suggesting change]. A process for change should be launched. There is no need for division. What people want is clear: A hopeful change," he said.
Muharrem İnce, the CHP presidential candidate who was defeated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the June 24 presidential elections, is favored by the dissidents to be the man to replace Kılıçdaroğlu.
İnce is voicing his intention to run chairmanship of the party, building on the support he gained during the presidential race. He was eight percentage points ahead of the party itself. İnce received about 30 percent of the votes against Erdoğan, who won the elections with 52.6 percent. CHP, on the other hand, garnered only about 22 percent.
The former CHP Yalova deputy, who failed twice against Kılıçdaroğlu in the race for the party chairmanship, has boldly proclaimed his push for a change in the CHP. The deputies supporting him moved to submit signatures to hold an extraordinary convention and elect İnce as the new chairman.
Addressing a press conference, CHP Deputy Chairman Tuncay Özkan said Thursday that it is the right of every CHP member to request a convention. "If there are enough signatures, I kindly call on them to come on in, then we will do whatever is necessary," he said.
Erdal Aksünger, a member of the CHP's party assembly, accused party leadership, particularly CHP spokesperson Bülent Tezcan, of pressuring İnce supporters not to sign the petition for the convention.
"The efforts to protect the [leadership] post [in the CHP] impair our demand of democracy and law from the government," Aksünger said Thursday in an interview with private broadcaster Habertürk.
He added that there should be no pressure either on delegates demanding an extraordinary convention or on those who don't.
The dissidents and party executives have also provided different numbers on collected signatures, a matter that pundits have described as a psychological war between the two sides.