The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has been going through turbulent times since the change in party leadership last year, is in a new crisis over the list of candidates it will nominate to Parliament for the June 12 elections. It is feared that the crisis over the candidate list may further deepen party divisions.
During a visit to Germany in early March, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced that his party plans to hold preliminary elections in Turkey’s 35 provinces, but the party has shelved its plans due to the intra-party dispute.
In the party’s latest parliamentary group meeting, the number of provinces where the CHP will hold preliminary elections was decreased to 29, but the election schedule makes it impossible for the CHP to hold preliminary elections in these provinces. Applications for parliamentary nominations will continue until March 26 at the CHP. For days Kılıçdaroğlu has been holding talks with CHP officials at the party headquarters in Ankara about its possible candidate lists. The party decided to part ways with 71 of its 101 deputies. There is a big disagreement over the candidate lists of İzmir, Adana and Ankara.
Kılıçdaroğlu contributed to the deepening of the crisis within the party when he refused to allow some prominent left-wing figures who were excluded from the party during the era of former CHP leader Deniz Baykal to even run as candidates under the party. One of those figures is former Culture Minister Fikri Sağlar and former Ankara Mayor Murat Karayalçın.
The party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) voted against the membership of four of 41 politicians who wanted to return to the party, including Sağlar, Gürbüz Çapan, Bülent Korucu and Deniz Kurtoğlu.
The nominations of singers Sabahat Akkiraz, Emre Saltık, Tolga Çandar and Hilmi Yarayıcı from the CHP are almost guaranteed. Former Hürriyet daily columnist Oktay Ekşi is also among the individuals the CHP will nominate.
Journalist Özkan to stay in Silivri
While the CHP has decided to nominate journalist Mustafa Balbay, who is currently in jail over his links to Ergenekon, a clandestine gang, from the province of Aydın, it does not plan to include journalist Tuncay Özkan in its candidate lists. Özkan is also a jailed Ergenekon suspect like Balbay and serving in a prison in Silivri, İstanbul province.
The CHP will also nominate former Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) President Sinan Aygün, former Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV) President Emine Tarhan and former public prosecutor İlhan Cihaner, who is a suspect in the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon.
Former CHP leader Baykal, who resigned from the party’s leadership in the wake of a video scandal last year, will also be on the CHP’s nomination list; however, pro-Baykal deputies, such as Yılmaz Ateş, Mustafa Özyürek, Mehmet Sevigen, Onur Öymen and Algan Hacaloğlu, will be kept off the candidate lists.
Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to submit the party’s candidate lists to the Party Council on April 8 or 9 and then to the Supreme Election Board (YSK).
AK Party-MHP tension
There is ongoing tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) about claims that some leading MHP figures will run for Parliament under the AK Party.
The AK Party ended the application process for parliamentary nominations on March 14 and plans to submit its candidate list to the YSK on April 11. The MHP has also ended its application process for parliamentary nominations.
It seems a number of leading figures who supported the AK Party in last year’s referendum, when the AK Party’s constitutional reform package was approved despite strong opposition from the CHP, will run for Parliament from the AK Party. One such person is Ramiz Ongun, the founding leader of the MHP’s Idealist Youth Clubs, known in Turkish as Ülkü Ocakları.
The MHP’s mayoral candidate for the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality in the 2009 local elections is also about to part ways from the MHP. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli allegedly prepared former MHP Ankara mayoral candidate Mansur Yavaş’s departure from the party because he sees him as a rival. There are concerns that many MHP members leaving to join the AK Party will put into doubt whether the MHP will be able to make it over the 10 percent election threshold.