But if the AKP government continues to assume Kemalist positions -- that is, if it sticks to its current pro-status quo stance and arbitrary manner -- I begin to think that it may render the Republican People’s Party (CHP) a viable alternative in the next general election, to be held in 2015. Reading and listening to what CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said after consolidating his leadership at the recent party congress held last month, however, I realize that this is a very far-fetched prospect.
To see why this is so it is sufficient to consider what Kılıçdaroğlu has said about some of the country’s most fundamental problems in interviews given right after his recent election as uncontested party chief. He has rightly stated that the resolution of the Kurdish problem would be far more difficult if it moved beyond the limits of being a domestic issue and assumed an international character. (Akşam, July 23) But what does he propose for the resolution of the problem? He says that the four parties represented in Parliament should get together and find a solution. It appears that the main opposition CHP has no idea, no remedy of its own to tackle the issue.
It is well known that one of the broadly shared demands of Kurdish citizens is the use of the Kurdish language in education. When asked whether universities should be allowed to use Kurdish in education, Kılıçdaroğlu’s response is: “I don’t know. The language used by universities has to be an internationally recognized language. Instruction solely in Kurdish would not be of much value.” When asked whether the Kurdish language should be used in education alongside Turkish, he remarked, “The Higher Education Board [YÖK] can decide on this.” (Taraf, July 25) The main opposition party does not seem to have a clear idea of its own on this highly important issue.
Kılıçdaroğlu once spoke in support of negotiations with and an amnesty to its militants to help bring to an end the armed insurgency led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This is what he now says on the subject: “There is no environment for such [measures]. There can be no negotiations with a terrorist organization. In order to adopt such measures, it is necessary that terrorism stops and the PKK unconditionally lays down its arms.” (Akşam, July 23) Isn’t this exactly what the Turkish state, and with it the CHP, has been saying for nearly 30 years now?
At least half of Turkey’s largest religious minority, the Alevis, and even some CHP deputies, believe that Alevism is separate from Islam and that cemevis are places of worship separate from mosques. Kılıçdaroğlu (an Alevi himself) declares that Alevism is part of Islam and cannot be considered a separate religion! How, then, can anyone trust Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu when he says, “All citizens should be able to exercise their religious beliefs freely”?
Kılıçdaroğlu calls on the AKP government to legislate, with the support of the CHP, to revisit laws passed by the military junta in the early 1980s. But questioned as to whether the chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces should be brought under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, he declares: “We first have to know what the governing party thinks on this issue. We have not yet debated it.” How, then, can anyone trust Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu when he claims that he wants to put an end to all legislation drafted by the military?
When Kılıçdaroğlu is asked why the AKP has been able to increase its share of the vote with every election, like some opinion writers he admires in the Turkish press, he accuses voters of stupidity. He says: “Prime Minister Erdoğan promised to build a new prison in Diyarbakır and collected the votes of the people of Diyarbakır. One has to ask them why they vote for a party that promises them new prisons.” (Taraf, July 24) If Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu (a Kurd himself) still does not know why at least half of Turkey’s Kurds vote for the AKP, he needs to be reminded, perhaps by the CHP’s Kurdish deputies, that the AKP government has not only put an end to the denial of Kurdish identity but also introduced some measures to further its recognition.
Kılıçdaroğlu accuses Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of being ignorant about the realities of the Middle East, but his words lay bare his own utter ignorance. He says: “Another state which would behave exactly like the state of Israel is taking shape. I mean a state which includes also northern Iraq.” (Hürriyet, July 26) Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu appears to want to declare war on all Kurds, while calling for a resolution of the Kurdish problem in Turkey.
It is obvious that there is actually not much that is “new” in Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP and, as it stands, unfortunately, it is not at all likely to offer an alternative to AKP power.