Post-referendum debate in the CHP over an extraordinary congress, who the presidential candidate should be and change is expected to spill over into tomorrow’s Party Assembly meeting that will discuss the proposal for the initiating of disciplinary procedures against Mersin MP Fikri Sağlar. There is consternation in ‘no’-voting circles at the commencement of internal debate in the CHP, which has undertaken to spearhead the 49%, without yet having engaged in a mutual exchange of views with the ‘no’ components and having drawn a comprehensive road map. The most basic cause of the clash of views between headquarters and opponents is debate over whether the general chair should be the presidential candidate or the ‘no’ front should field a joint non-party candidate. The following points are being raised over the key issues in the internal debate within the CHP:
‘No’ won: By virtually universal consensus within the CHP, the Supreme Election Council was instrumental in ‘yes’ prevailing in the poll. Kılıçdaroğlu and the headquarters team argue that President Tayyip Erdoğan also actually knows that ‘no’ won.
Alliance to preserve the regime: Over the referendum, the CHP put all its resentment, criticism, ire and party-internal calculations to one side and the people who are now coming out in most opposition also campaigned with all their might to secure a vote against the presidential regime. All wings within the party, from Muharrem İnce, who had stood as a candidate for general chair against Kılıçdaroğlu, to Deniz Baykal, who in a sense has been calling on Kılıçdaroğlu to stand to one side following the referendum, put their personal calculations to one side in the bid to oppose the presidential system that they perceived to be a threat to the republican regime and they formed an alliance to preserve the regime.
Differences over method: The main reason for debate over an extraordinary congress/change of leadership that has started in the CHP before even one month has elapsed after the referendum is the clash of views between Kılıçdaroğlu and his opponents over how the 49% is to be brought to power. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu argues that the 49% is not only composed of CHP votes and, so, communication must be made with all ‘no’-supporting circles and a joint candidate must be picked and, since they are opposed to a party-affiliated president, the candidate for ‘no’ should not be a party’s general chair. Headquarters administration also argues that a joint candidate must be picked after having spoken with the ‘no’ components and having obtained their opinions and suggestions and, to this end, the way forward must not be hurried but must follow a well-prepared road map.
İhsanoğlu concerns: The call by party-internal opponents for an extraordinary congress is justified by the prospect that the AKP chaired by President Erdoğan may not wait for 2019 and hold a surprise early election. Opponents, arguing that the failure experienced with Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the alliance candidate fielded with the MHP in the 2014 presidential election, will also be experienced in the upcoming presidential election, argue that a person who will speak to ‘no’ circles must be the party’s general chair, preparation must be started immediately for the elections and, if need be, they should stand for president. However, waiting eight months for the ordinary congress slated for January 2018 will lead to loss and, hence, an extraordinary congress should be embarked on without losing time.
Calculations over delegates: Headquarters administration attributes İnce, Baykal and Sağlar’s calls for immediate change to the balance of delegates. The view is expressed that, given that the ordinary congress will be attended by newly elected delegates and headquarters will be influential in selecting delegates, the opponents are pushing for an extraordinary congress with existing delegates.
Postponed settling of scores: Cited as one of the most significant reasons for the early drawing of swords in the CHP is the putting off until after the referendum of the party-internal settling of scores that had been left half-finished by a string of elections and referendums after Kılıçdaroğlu took over at the helm and most recently 15 July. Muharrem İnce stood as a candidate at the extraordinary congress convened after the presidential elections but he lost against Kılıçdaroğlu. The congress held in January 2016, by contrast, came as a warning to Kılıçdaroğlu. A strong candidate did not emerge to challenge Kılıçdaroğlu, but opponents managed to get people into party administration. Since 2010 when Kılıçdaroğlu took over at the head of the party, 23 people including Sağlar have circumvented the list to get onto the sixty-person Party Assembly.
Baykal pointed to the impossible
Baykal’s designs: Former CHP General Chair Baykal’s comments that if Abdullah Gül, who has accompanied Erdoğan for his entire political life, were to be proposed as the joint candidate for ‘no’, consideration could be given to this has provoked comment that, in pointing to the impossible, he has designs on being the joint candidate for ‘no’. However, it is stated that this outburst of Baykal’s has actually soured the positive image he created through his campaigning. Baykal’s second handicap is the support he is giving to Sağlar, whom he expelled from the party. Headquarters administration points out that Kılıçdaroğlu brokered the return to the party of Sağlar, whom Baykal had expelled, and emphasises that this is a massive contradiction.
Party Assembly no pushover: The Party Assembly elected at the January congress is still serving. It is stressed that it will thus not be easy to get the proposal for Sağlar’s expulsion through the Party Assembly, at which the initiating of disciplinary procedures is sought by the Central Executive Committee for his having accused Kılıçdaroğlu in a pro-regime newspaper of acting like a single-man. It is suggested that, with such names as Baykal, who expelled Fikri Sağlar from the CHP during his time as general chair, and İnce standing by Sağlar and certain MPs who previously supported Kılıçdaroğlu aligning themselves with İnce, this may tip the balance of votes at the Party Assembly set to convene tomorrow against headquarters.