For some, the CHP should hurry up and hold an extraordinary congress to end the deadlock surrounding the leadership status, but for some others, the congress will not help to ease the trouble because it will not be held in a fair manner for many reasons. For over one week, the main opposition party has been going through tough times due to an order from Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya to put the party's new bylaws into practice within two weeks. The new bylaws are mainly intended to significantly reduce the role of Sav in the administration of the party. Sav is better known as the “leader behind the scenes” of the CHP. However, the former secretary-general was unwilling to see his power curbed. When Kılıçdaroğlu made a major change in the party administration as part of efforts to implement the new bylaws, Sav got furious and started to gather signatures from delegates for an extraordinary congress. He planned to use his power over CHP delegates to change the party leader in the congress. Neither Sav nor his close circle of friends appeared in the new CHP administration.
Initially, over 50 members of the CHP Party Council signed the “call for a congress” document, but some of them withdrew their signatures on Thursday. Kılıçdaroğlu, in response, reacted harshly. On Wednesday evening, he called a press conference and said the formation of the new party administration was aimed to “destroy an empire of fear.” He was openly criticizing Sav’s influence on CHP delegates. “The party seats do not belong to anyone. I was brought to the CHP leadership by the party organization, and I will be sent back by no one but the organization itself. I will respect any decision made by the organization. If someone insists on protecting his seat and threatens to revolt if he is removed then that’s not correct. I will never allow such attempts,” he stated.
Throughout his address, Kılıçdaroğlu focused on “fears” and “freedoms,” which strongly hinted that the CHP administration has long remained under the hegemony of Sav.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
“We demolished the empire of fear in the CHP. We are the party of the public, but not the party of some people. Seats are not entrusted to people so that they can occupy them for ever. The seats do not belong to us or others. People who receive their power from elsewhere will not remain in the party,” the CHP leader added.
He also appealed to CHP delegates to support him. He said the “new CHP” he leads will bring democracy to the main opposition party.
Kılıçdaroğlu clarified his definition of the “new CHP” in a press conference on Thursday. He said what he meant by the new CHP is the new party administration. “This is an administration that receives its power from the public. This is a pro-freedom administration. No one will manage to carry this administration outside of freedoms and the law,” he noted.
The CHP is currently in a mess. Sav and CHP members who were removed from office by Kılıçdaroğlu on Wednesday packed their belongings and emptied their rooms at CHP headquarters in Ankara. Sav later filed a complaint at the Supreme Court of Appeals against Kılıçdaroğlu, arguing that he appointed new names to the CHP administration in violation of the laws. He also called provincial chairmen of the CHP to convene for a meeting on Saturday.
CHP’s new Secretary-General Süheyl Batum responded to Sav’s complaint, saying that the new bylaws are “clear” on appointments and that the best response to Sav’s complaint would be given by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Kılıçdaroğlu was “hopeful” when he arrived at the party headquarters to attend his party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting. He said Turkey needs hope and a good party administration. “We are living in a pessimistic democracy. We need to get rid of this pessimism. The CHP will become the hope of the public,” he noted.
It was not immediately clear whether the main opposition party will hold a congress on Nov. 27 or 28 as was declared on Wednesday. There are rumors that the military may intervene to thaw the ice between Kılıçdaroğlu and Sav to prevent a real separation within the party. The military believes that the CHP is a guardian of the secular regime in Turkey. It would not like to see it lose power as it would lead to a loss of power on the secularist front. For some, the military may ask Sav to “take his hands off” the CHP administration. Otherwise, the main opposition may see a major split between the supporters of Sav, Kılıçdaroğlu and Deniz Baykal, the party’s former leader.
Is a congress a way out?
Both Kılıçdaroğlu and Sav are now seeking a way out of the crisis. Sav is confident that he will emerge victorious from a congress because he is supported by the majority of party delegates. If the CHP heads to an extraordinary congress, Kılıçdaroğlu will have almost no chance to remain as the party’s leader. The former secretary-general is reportedly looking for a candidate for CHP leader. The candidate will run in the congress against Kılıçdaroğlu. There are rumors that he may pick Haluk Koç or Hakkı Süha Okay as the candidate.
Süheyl Batum, who was appointed as the new CHP secretary-general, said the main opposition party would head to an extraordinary congress if the problems are unsolved. “Do not worry. Everything will return to normal in a few days. If we cannot solve the problems, we will head to an extraordinary congress,” he told reporters.
Atilla Kart, a CHP Konya deputy, said the main opposition party should hold a congress in order to renew the party council. He said the right to decide on a congress is vested in the party’s leader alone.
Former CHP Deputy Chairman Hakkı Süha Okay, however, disagreed, and said delegates may decide to head to a congress. “At the point we have reached, we have no opportunity to work together,” he told reporters, and added that the internal rift within the CHP may be settled at a congress or at the hands of judicial bodies.
According to CHP İstanbul Provincial Chairman Berhan Şimşek, the congress should be deferred until after the next parliamentary elections in 2011. He expressed surprise to see the main opposition party in an internal conflict. “This was not what we imagined. … I see what we are experiencing today as a nightmare. The CHP is the spine of Turkey,” he said.
Who is who in the ‘new CHP?’
With Kılıçdaroğlu’s appointments on Wednesday, the CHP administration saw a major change. Here are the new positions of leading CHP figures: Gürsel Tekin will be responsible for the party organization, Hurşit Güneş will be responsible for administrative and fiscal affairs, Mesut Değer will be responsible for legal and elections-related affairs, İsa Gök will be responsible for promotion and press relations of the party, Alaattin Yüksel will be responsible for local administrations and İzzet Çetin will be responsible for relations with professional groups, unions and nongovernmental organizations.