The Republican People’s Party (CHP), held its 34th ordinary congress on July 17 and 18, in which Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was re-elected as the party chairman in the first round of voting.
Before the congress, the party signaled that it intended to evolve into a more democratic and leftist one, yet many columnists remain skeptical as they are unsure if the party’s administration will live up to expectations to stop fighting to maintain the status quo.
Vedat Bilgin from the Bugün daily finds it highly significant that the CHP chose the motto of “Democracy and change” for the congress, because by choosing such a motto, the CHP is proving that it has finally realized that the main inclination in Turkey’s past years has been in the direction of change and democracy. But this realization is not enough; the CHP should first understand the meaning and requirements of change and the process of democratization as well. Bilgin says looking at Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech at the congress in which he wanted to make the members feel like he is a “leftist party leader” by calling them “comrades” and often using the discourse of “anti-imperialism” and “independence,” it is clear that the “new CHP” aims to adopt a rather “social democrat” party image. And yet in the same speech, Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized they are determined to preserve the backbone ideology of the party, which is Kemalism. Briefly, if the CHP indeed wants to help fix the problems of Turkey, it should come up with a transition formula from Kemalism to social democracy. Otherwise, its efforts for renewal will turn into an identity crisis, the Bugün columnist says.
According to Star’s Mahir Kaynak, changes are necessary for development, and Turkey was able to achieve developments in many fields because it allowed for change. As for Kemalism, Kaynak argues that true Kemalism, in the sense of what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk used to do, suggests devising new ideologies that are compatible in today’s world instead of reviving old practices. In this regard, Kemalism does not necessarily contradict the CHP’s renewal aims, he argues.
Zaman’s Mustafa Ünal believes in Kılıçdaroğlu’s sincerity in his efforts to overhaul his party. But Kılıçdaroğlu did not achieve a lot because of the party’s structure, which resists any renewal. This pro-status quo structure even regards the discourse of a “new CHP” as betrayal. The party’s fate in the upcoming elections depends on Kılıçdaroğlu’s struggle against this old structure, Ünal maintains.