[email protected]

January 27, 2013, Sunday

Kılıçdaroğlu’s choice

Turkey has been discussing horrible remarks made by Republican People's Party (CHP) İzmir deputy Birgül Ayman Güler in a session of Parliament, where the right to defense in one's native language has been under deliberation for some time.

Güler made the following statement, which was included in Parliament records: “You cannot make me accept Kurdish nationalism as progressiveness or eagerness for independence. You cannot make me view the Turkish nation as equal to the Kurdish nation.”

In response to this remark, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy İdris Baluken said, “We are not nationalists, but you are neo-nationalists.” The CHP's Güler further said: “My dear friends, this is the only thing that emerged out of the cooperation between the Justice and Development Party [AKP] and the BDP. There is no Kurdish question in Turkey. You made the problem a Turkish issue in this country.”

The CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members of Parliament frantically applauded Güler after these remarks. CHP Adıyaman deputy Salih Fırat, who resigned from this party in the aftermath of this incident, said that he made this decision because of the applause. This is important because it is ordinary to hear such remarks from anybody attached to any political party. However, the strong support coupled with applause by CHP members influenced his decision.

After this incident, all eyes were on CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. After a while, he made a statement. The next day, he met with Güler and said that her remarks were unacceptable. However, he was not convincing and decisive enough, Güler said after the meeting that she did not consider resignation, that Fırat's resignation had nothing to do with her statements and that she was still holding the same thoughts on the matter.

Since coming to power, Kılıçdaroğlu has been making strong references to the discourse of the new CHP. However, he failed to fully describe this discourse; he failed to make a choice between the neo-nationalists within the party and the reformists. Güler's remarks are not coincidental. It is a strong reaction within the party by the neo-nationalist wing vis-à-vis the CHP's support for the new İmralı process. The neo-nationalists within the party are mad angry at the CHP's support for the peace talks with the PKK; and they made their statement and point by causing a crisis via Güler's racist remarks at a time when the right to defend oneself in one's native language was being deliberated in Parliament.

Even if he removes Güler, Kılıçdaroğlu will not be able to undermine the power of the neo-nationalists in this party. What he needs to do is to define his policy clearly and offer a proper description of the new CHP. In case he does this decisively and remains attached to it, those who are uneasy with it will leave the party. But if you imply you are a neo-nationalist and then argue that you are also a democrat, no one will believe you. You cannot be supported by the neo-nationalists or the democrats. This is why the CHP has turned into a club of those who dislike the AK Party rather than a proper political party. During the leadership of Deniz Baykal, the party at least had a neo-nationalist-fascist discourse and policy. The present-day CHP is unable to define its neo-nationalist or democratic identity.

It is neurotic to, while going through a process of change on one hand, support the former regime, which the process of change is waging a battle against in the first place. Who can believe remarks made the leader of a political party -- saying that they are ready to do anything to resolve the Kurdish issue -- which has so many racist deputies, including Güler?

In fact, if Kılıçdaroğlu could be bold enough and side with the reformists within the party, he would reinforce his position and Turkey would have a strong main opposition party as well because the former CHP cannot possibly survive in the new Turkey.

Previous articles of the columnist