In a move which the Turkish press has dubbed a declaration of “martial law,” Republican People's party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told party deputies on Tuesday that any future press conference or speech given in Parliament will require advance permission from central party authorities.
The order quickly drew fire from deputies within the main opposition party, which has found itself rocked by infighting since CHP deputy Hüseyin Aygün's November call for a CHP apology regarding the 1937 Dersim massacres. Mere hours after the announcement was made by kılıçdaroğlu, CHP deputy İsa Gök called a press conference in defiance of what he called “political maneuvers,” telling the press: “I'm not afraid of such threats. No deputy can condone dictatorship.” The deputy defied the party line earlier this year for his prolonged refusal to take the parliamentary oath when the assembly first convened.
Gök said in his Tuesday conference that Kılıçdaroğlu's attempt to corral dissent violated the “democratic principles” of the party, telling the press: “Democracy is of the upmost importance within the party. If you hollow out the principle of democracy within the party in the name of party discipline, the independent will of the deputies is lost.”
CHP party discipline rapidly deteriorated in early November, when Aygün's demand that the party “face up” to its role in the 1937 Dersim massacres touched off a bitter spate of internal disputes within the CHP. Following Aygün's comments, a group of 12 neo-nationalist deputies independently condemned Aygün's remarks and called for his resignation at a press conference. Kılıçdaroğlu quickly condemned the statements of both Aygün and the 12 rogue deputies as “chaotic,” calling for greater party order.
The chairman told his deputies on Nov. 17 that party statements should be double checked by the central party, stating: “I don't find it suitable for a press conference to be held without the permission of the chairman. There will be discipline in this party. And all will adhere to that discipline,” he stated.
The call to close ranks, however, has resonated little with former party leaders who have become restless with Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership. Last week saw a closed-door meeting between former party Chairman Deniz Bakal and 36 other former CHP deputies in Ankara, a meeting in which the former party members allegedly discussed their plans for a post-Kılıçdaroğlu CHP.
Kılıçdaroğlu evoked further ire from former party leaders with last week's sacking of CHP Tunceli Provincial Chairman Hüseyin Güneş, a move which was likely motivated by Güneş's alleged loyalty to former CHP Chairman Baykal. Güneş has since criticized the leadership of Kılıçdaroğlu as heavy-handed, stating earlier this week: “He promised the people of Turkey that the ‘empire of fear' of the previous CHP administration would be demolished and underscored a ‘new CHP.' What a shame, then, that ‘empire of fear' is still continuing.” Now, warns Güneş, Kılıçdaroğlu's renewed effort to rein in the party will likely precipitate further internal conflict. “It isn't just me; after me they are going to dismiss many other regional chairmen,” says Güneş.