The leaders of Turkey’s main political parties have placed figures from their A-teams in the top positions of their deputy candidate lists for the upcoming June 12 elections.
There seems to be strong competition between the A-teams of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). AK Party leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu included more figures with expertise in various issues than the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
It is in fact difficult to mention a single Erdoğan A-team as he has more than one. However, the figures that are supposed to come to the fore after the June 12 elections are Deputy Prime Ministers Cemil Çiçek and Bülent Arınç as well as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Professor Nabi Avcı, who has been serving as the prime minister’s aide for eight years. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Industry and Trade Minister Nihat Ergün are also expected to be Erdoğan’s favorites in the new parliamentary term.
Çiçek is expected to take an active role in the AK Party’s efforts to make a new constitution. A graduate of İstanbul University’s School of Law, Çiçek was a leading figure in late Prime Minister and President Turgut Özal’s Motherland Party (ANAP). He is among the founding members of the AK Party and served as justice minister before Ergin. He was regarded as successful during his term for managing to prepare and pass nine EU harmonization packages. He was also lauded for reaching a consensus on these amendments with the opposition parties in Parliament. Erdoğan reportedly expects a similar performance from Çiçek in efforts to make a new constitution.
Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, set to enter Parliament for the first time this year, previously served as Erdoğan’s aide. He became the first non-deputy minister to be approved for the Cabinet after the July 22, 2007 elections. Davutoğlu, who will run as a deputy candidate from Konya, is expected to continue as the foreign minister in the new Cabinet as well.
As for Arınç, he has been involved in politics since 1991 and was among the three leading figures who along with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan laid the foundation of the AK Party. He served as parliament speaker after the AK Party came to power in 2002 and became the deputy prime minister after the July 22 elections. He is known as the figure who changed the course of the 2007 presidential elections, when he insisted on Gül’s nomination. He is also known as a person whom Erdoğan respects very much. As a person who can even criticize the government’s actions, he is referred to as the “AK Party’s conscience.”
Erdoğan’s new favorite after the elections is expected to be his long-time aide Avcı. A graduate of Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ) department of international relations and political science, he served as an instructor at various universities. Avcı will run as a deputy candidate from Eskişehir, where the ruling party has not nominated any of the current deputies.
CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin and professors Sencer Ayata and Binnaz Toprak are the most noteworthy figures on Kılıçdaroğlu’s A-team. Tekin, who had a major role in the CHP’s elimination of the influence of former CHP Secretary-General Önder Sav, is a politician who entered politics through the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP). He was brought to the leadership of the CHP’s İstanbul branch in 2007 and came to the fore during the March 2009 local elections. During the election campaign, he worked with Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP’s mayoral candidate for İstanbul at the time, and increased the number of CHP votes in İstanbul when compared to other elections. He is now responsible for the CHP’s local party branches, which were once under Sav’s influence.
Another figure expected to be on Kılıçdaroğlu’s A-team after the elections is Toprak. She worked as a professor at Boğaziçi University’s department of international relations and political science before joining the CHP. Still a lecturer at Bahçeşehir University, Toprak represents the democratic and leftist face of the CHP. She is known to be the only person within the CHP to oppose the nomination of a number of suspects in the ongoing Ergenekon trial, who would run from the CHP in the elections. Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network charged with plotting to overthrow the government.
If the CHP comes to power in the elections, the architect of the party’s social projects is expected to be Ayata. He is the son-in-law of former Foreign Minister Turan Güneş, who served in this post during Turkey’s 1974 intervention in Cyprus to protect Turkish Cypriots from Greek Cypriot attacks.
Ayata, who has given lectures at Manchester University, Harvard University and Oxford University, is the architect of Kılıçdaroğlu’s “Family Insurance Project,” through which the party will provide at least TL 600 per month to disadvantaged families. He is currently the head of the CHP’s Science, Administration and Culture Platform.
Halaçoğlu added to Bahçeli’s A-team
There is little change to the A-team of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Current MHP parliamentary group deputy chairmen Oktay Vural and Mehmet Şandır and MHP Ankara deputy Deniz Bölükbaşı are expected to again be on Bahçeli’s A-team. Vural entered Parliament for the first time in 1999 while serving as the general director of the state-owned Turkish Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ). He served as transportation minister during the 57th government.
One of the figures the MHP seeks to use in the elections to get more votes is former Turkish Historical Society (TTK) President Professor Yusuf Halaçoğlu. He is known to be a strong denier of allegations that Armenians were subjected to genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I. In conferences and panel discussions organized by his organization, Halaçoğlu asserted that claims of genocide were completely false and that the TTK has 100,000 pages of archived documents that serve as proof, refuting allegations that Armenians faced genocide in 1915.
As for the BDP, which will run in the elections with independent candidates, the party’s backbone is to be made up of Selahattin Demirtaş, Murat Bozlak, Gülten Kışanak and Ertuğrul Kürkçü. Demirtaş, who has served as BDP co-chairman, is known for his background in law. He has worked for associations defending human rights for many years. Demirtaş entered Parliament in 2007 and is the brother of Nurettin Demirtaş, the chairman of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP).
Bozlak, a former chairman of the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) -- yet another Kurdish party shut down by the Constitutional Court -- is expected to be the leader of the BDP if elected. He was banned from politics for five years after HADEP was shut down in 2002 and is known for criticizing Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Kürkçü is known as a human rights activist and a socialist. He is a prominent name from Turkey’s armed 1968 leftist movement. He was among the seven independent deputy candidates supported by the BDP who were disqualified by a Supreme Election Board (YSK) decision. In its decision, the YSK said the nominees who were disqualified from running in the June elections had past convictions in terrorism-related crimes. However, mounting negative reactions worked and the YSK reversed its decision three days later. In its new decision, the election board said six of the candidates were eligible to run in the elections.
The BDP also seeks to get the support of religious Kurds through journalist Altan Tan, who is close to religious groups in the region. He is also an independent candidate for the BDP from Diyarbakır and is expected to be an influential BDP figure. İstanbul Sunday’s Zaman