Competition among political parties heats up as general elections approach

December 12, 2010, Sunday/ 13:49:00

With only approximately six months left until the next parliamentary elections, political parties have rolled up their sleeves and are preparing to attract voters. While deputies are concerned about being nominated as candidates for the next elections, some bureaucrats have started preparations for their own candidacy in the elections.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is expected to witness the fiercest intra-party upheaval, with most deputies vying to preserve their positions. In the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), at least 137 deputies will not be re-nominated as candidates for the upcoming elections, according to some rumors. The rumors are based on the recent remarks of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the AK Party leader. He said his party would not nominate deputies who do not display the expected performance and fail to attend parliamentary sessions as candidate for the next elections. The ruling party now has three main criteria in deciding on whether to nominate its deputies as candidates for the upcoming elections: performance displayed since the 2007 elections, efforts exerted during the preparation and public approval of the constitutional amendment package and attendance of parliamentary sessions.

There are rumors in the AK Party that the party does not plan to re-nominate at least 137 of its 337 deputies as candidate for the next general elections, which are slated for mid-June of 2011. The ruling party has little doubt that it will be swept to power by voters once again in 2011. The AK Party, which according to recent public opinion polls continues to have much public support, is confident it will win the elections for a fourth time provided that nothing unexpected happens. No one from the party's administration thinks they will lose.

Deputies with problems in their personal life are not expected to be included on the party's deputy list. Emine Erdoğan, the wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made sure that no one who had marital problems or was known to be having an affair was added to the list for the 2007 elections. There are claims that 17 deputies, including one minister, will be excluded from the list solely because of personal problems.

CHP most stressed party

The CHP tops the list of parties facing challenges in preparing for the June 2011 elections. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who became the leader of the CHP in May 2010, wants to resolve intra-party conflicts before the general elections. It is for this reason that he has decided to hold an extraordinary congress, even though he initially did not want to do so.

Kılıçdaroğlu, who hopes that the controversies that are expected to arise after the congress on Dec. 18 will be resolved before the elections, will likely keep his current position. However, many people who were removed from the party during the term of former leader Deniz Baykal are expected to support Kılıçdaroğlu. In addition to this, several people who used to be part of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), Democratic Left People's Party (DSHP), the New Turkey Party (YTP) and the Social Democratic People's Party (SHP) expect Kılıçdaroğlu to make them deputies.

Kılıçdaroğlu has promised he would use the sheet list system instead of the traditional bloc list to elect 80 members to the Party Assembly during the party congress. While there are signs that he might be changing his mind, Kılıçdaroğlu is working hard to be able to keep his promise on Dec. 18. He will submit the proposal to use the sheet list for the approval of the delegates.

In addition to the sheet list, Kılıçdaroğlu has also promised to use primary elections to decide who runs for seats in Parliament. However, if primary elections are held in every province, Kılıçdaroğlu faces the risk of not being able to choose certain people he favors. So the CHP leader has come up with a formula to solve this crisis. Kılıçdaroğlu is planning on using primary elections in 30 of the 81 provinces at most. It is very likely that the primary elections will bring attention to problems and confrontations within the party. It is for this reason that the CHP is already discussing how it can prevent problems from erupting in the party before elections. If Kılıçdaroğlu decides to hold primary elections in all 81 provinces, then the CHP will be the party with the unhappiest members in the June 2011 elections.

Bahçeli’s utopian plan to win in elections

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is another party that has already started preparing for the June 2011 elections. The MHP, which lost tremendous public support due to its opposition to the constitutional referendum on Sept. 12, has started touring the country to regain the public's support and to not have to worry about passing the election threshold.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is trying hard not to increase the number of resentful MHP supporters. One of the main problems the MHP needs to deal with is that people not supported by the party have been added to the deputy list. Bahçeli is preparing to make sure that all of the party's organizations work at full capacity for the June 2011 elections.

During his visits to Adana and Mersin, the MHP leader came up with a utopian plan that would ensure that his party won the elections. He asked every nationalist to find and persuade 24 people to vote for the MHP. According to Bahçeli's calculations, a party needs to persuade 19 million voters in order to become the ruling party in Turkey. During his visits, Bahçeli said every nationalist needs to persuade five friends from elementary school, five friends from middle school, five friends from high school, five friends from draft service and five friends from his neighborhood to vote for the MHP and asked all organizations of the party to work at full capacity.

Smaller parties make alliance plans

Smaller parties that are aware that they won't be able to pass the 10 percent election threshold in the June 2011 elections are considering forming alliances in order to win seats in Parliament. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had considered the idea of entering the elections with the CHP. But it has realized that this is impossible. The DSP and the Equality and Democracy Party (EDP) are currently holding talks on forming an alliance.

The Felicity Party (SP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP) have also accelerated talks about forming an alliance. The BBP hopes to be represented in Parliament by way of the quotas to be allocated by the AK Party. During his visit to Sivas, Prime Minister Erdoğan visited the family of Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, the former leader of BBP who died in a helicopter accident. The visit was seen as an attempt to offer an olive branch to the BBP.

As for Numan Kurtulmuş, who resigned from the SP and established the People's Voice Party (HAS Party), he is preparing to become a competitive candidate if not in the upcoming elections, then the elections after. Abdullatif Şener, who left the AK Party and founded the Turkey Party (TP), is flirting with an alliance with the SP.

Hüsamettin Cindoruk, who is the interim leader of the Democrat Party (DP) until a younger candidate is found to assume leadership, is not letting go of his seat. He continuously delays congresses anytime they are scheduled. Cindoruk and his close colleagues are contemplating ways to collaborate with the CHP during this period. It is believed they have also asked Kurtulmuş to cooperate with them.

Bureaucracy is preparing for elections

Preparations for the elections are taking place within the bureaucracy as well. Close to 400 senior-level bureaucrats are preparing to become candidates to run for seats in Parliament in the June 2011 elections. The primary choice of bureaucrats is the AK Party. Bureaucrats have even set up a website that asks, “Which bureaucrat would you like to see in Parliament?” and are inviting their friends and family to vote for them on the website. The AK Party plans on making close to 100 bureaucrats deputies in this election. The CHP and the MHP are also expected to add a few bureaucrats to their deputy lists as well.

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