Deniz Baykal, who stepped down as Republican People's Party (CHP) leader in 2010, made a speech for the first time in three years at the party's parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.
Baykal's speech has strengthened assertions that the party is going through a rough patch and moreover that it lacks a strong leader to pull the party together.
Baykal mainly called on party members to stand against the new constitution being drafted for Turkey, as it will include the phrase “citizens of the Republic of Turkey,” instead of “Turkish citizens.” He also said the CHP does not have an anti-democratic record, underlining that the claim of “the CHP plus army equals a coup” is completely wrong. “The CHP has always stood against coups and in fact was the victim of coups. It has always defended freedom of religion. ... All CHP members are nationalists and reformists. One cannot be a CHP member if he is not nationalist.”
Star's Ahmet Kekeç says it is actually the opposite of what Baykal said about the party. First of all, the CHP has never been respectful of freedom of religion. It is true that there has been some improvement in the party's rigid secularist stance. But still it won't get any better unless it gives up its obsession with secularism. Secondly, it is nothing but a lie that the CHP is against coups. Everyone knows the open support the CHP gave to the Feb. 28, 1997 coup and former CHP leader İsmet İnönü's famous remark of “Coups are legitimate if appropriate circumstances occur.”
Sabah's Mahmut Övür says Baykal's speech and other controversial nationalist remarks that we have been hearing from the party are part of a plan of the nationalist wing within the party to take control of the party. “Baykal's remark about the new constitution is no different from Birgül Ayman Güler's remark saying essentially that ‘the Turkish nation cannot be equal to the Kurdish ethnicity.' They both see the government's recently launched peace initiative as a betrayal of the country, and they are trying to hamper it at the cost of their careers. The CHP is currently divided between a nationalist group including Baykal and Güler and a group supporting the peace efforts. And just as the party is in a tight situation and torn between the two groups, Baykal shows up, trying his luck at leadership once again.
Abdülkadir Selvi from Yeni Şafak says it is pretty normal to have such different voices within a political party and that those differing voices might cause conflicts as well. But a party leader's art is in keeping his party together at such times. However, the party's current leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is too passive in regards to the conflict within his party. He did not express his views even after the party's former leader made an influential speech, which can be interpreted is a signal of his return to the party. As Kılıçdaroğlu fails to reveal his views and stance, the party suffers from the state of “lack of a definite identity.”