Deputy candidate lists announced by Turkey's political parties have revealed the willingness of many parties to renew their parliamentary groups following the upcoming June 12 elections, with 267 of the current 540 deputies failing to be re-nominated as candidates.
When the parties submitted their candidate lists for the parliamentary elections to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) late on Monday, 167 deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), 64 deputies from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), 27 deputies from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and eight deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) were unable to find themselves on their parties' candidate lists.
Two current state ministers, Mehmet Aydın and Selma Aliye Kavaf, were also left off the AK Party's deputy candidate list. Aydın was not a surprise as he did not file an application for candidacy but the exclusion of Kavaf, the state minister for Family and Women's Affairs, came as a surprise for many.
A majority of the deputies that have not been re-nominated by the AK Party were deputies from the southeastern provinces, as well as some from coastal provinces where the ruling party wasn't successful in the Sept. 12 referendum last year on a set of government-sponsored constitutional amendments. There are no current deputies from Mersin, Sinop, Kırıkkale, Muş, Çankırı, Sivas Kilis and Niğde on the AK Party candidate list. AK Party Deputy Chairwoman Nükhet Hotar Göksel was also left off the list. Former ministers Atilla Koç, Hilmi Güler, Nazım Ekren, Said Yazıcıoğlu, Kürşad Tüzmen, Kemal Unakıtan and Osman Pepe will also not be running as candidates.
One of the surprises in the AK Party’s candidate list was the change of electoral districts of nine current ministers: Bülent Arınç was nominated from Bursa; Binali Yıldırım and Ertuğrul Günay from İzmir; Vecdi Gönül from Antalya; Zafer Çağlayan from Mersin; Faruk Çelik from Şanlıurfa; Hayati Yazıcı from Rize; Mehmet Şimşek from Batman; and Beşir Atalay from Kırıkkale. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will run as a candidate in İstanbul’s first electoral region.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who expects to be a deputy for the first time, was nominated from his hometown, Konya. The AK Party included 12 former deputies who were not re-nominated in the 2007 elections in the candidate list for this year’s elections.
A total of 78 women and 11 people with disabilities are included on the AK Party’s candidate list. Of the AK Party’s 550 candidates, 514 have university degrees.
Speaking during a press conference after submitting his party’s list to the YSK, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said they had prepared the lists very carefully as these new deputies will “rebuild” Turkey. Noting that the June 12 elections are of critical importance for Turkey, he said his party held individual interviews with candidate hopefuls and gave priority to merit in determining the candidate list. He called on those didn’t make it on the list to continue to work for the AK Party.
Meanwhile, AK Party Şanlıurfa deputy Zülfikar İzol resigned from the party yesterday after he was not re-nominated by the party for the upcoming elections. He said he will run as an independent deputy candidate from Şanlıurfa.
A topic of speculation was whether the ruling party would nominate a headscarf-wearing deputy, given the growing calls from the public for women candidates who wear headscarves to become deputies in Parliament. These hopes were dashed with the announcement of the candidate lists, with only one candidate from the AK Party who wears a headscarf, Gülderen Gültekin, whose election does not seem possible since she was nominated in 13th place in Antalya. Gültekin, a teacher by profession, did announce that she would be prepared to remove her headscarf if necessary to enter Parliament if she is elected.
Turkey still has a bitter memories of a deputy who wore the headscarf: Merve Kavakçı was elected to Parliament on April 18, 1999 and represented the now-defunct Virtue Party (FP). However, when she walked in wearing her headscarf, she was met with strong opposition by deputies from the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and was sent out of Parliament.
CHP list not only brings change but also intra-party crisis
The main opposition CHP was the party that made the most radical changes to its current deputy list and this has kicked of an intra-party crisis in the CHP. The chairman of the CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who replaced the party’s long-time leader Deniz Baykal last year, did not nominate figures close to former CHP leader Deniz Baykal, although he did nominate Baykal himself.
Kılıçdaroğlu, who will run in the elections from İstanbul’s 2nd electoral region, continued to erase the traces of the Baykal era, which is regarded as a significant step for him in shaping the new CHP, which he has been trying to do since taking over the leadership.
Kılıçdaroğlu did not include former Secretary-General Önder Sav and deputies close to him nor did he include figures close to Baykal, such as Hakkı Süha Okay, Kemal Anadol, Yılmaz Ateş, Mehmet Sevigen, Mustafa Özyürek, Berhan Şimşek, Canan Arıtman, Cevdet Selvi, Mesut Değer and Onur Öymen, in the candidate lists. However, the CHP leader did nominate three suspects in the ongoing Ergenekon trial as deputies: As expected, he nominated former Başkent University Rector Mehmet Haberal from Zonguldak, former Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) President Sinan Aygün from Ankara and journalist Mustafa Balbay from İzmir. Former prosecutor İlhan Cihaner and journalist Tuncay Özkan did not find a place on Kılıçdaroğlu’s list. The suspects are accused of being members of Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal gang accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Sav was seen as the main opposition party’s “covert leader” as he had vast control over the party’s administration. However, Sav’s influence over the CHP and the party’s administration was curbed with the adoption of new bylaws in a congress in December. In this recent move, Kılıçdaroğlu appears to have totally distanced Sav from the party.
Many deputies that were ruled out by Kılıçdaroğlu as well as some local branches have already raised a red flag against Kılıçdaroğlu.
In addition to Anadol, Arıtman and Ateş, who have accused Kılıçdaroğlu of changing the fundamentals of the party, Özyürek also raised his voice late Monday saying the party is going through a “mass elimination operation.”
“Those who did not even cast a single vote for the CHP in the past are now at top of the list,” he complained.
Öymen also expressed concern “over a possible axis shift” in the party with the new list. “My biggest concern is whether the new CHP will stray from the principles of the CHP. The CHP is a party that was established by [the founder of Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk. Party figures may change but the important thing is to protect the principles of the party,” he said.
Şimşek, the former chairman of the CHP İstanbul branch, also held a press conference yesterday in which he criticized his party for failing to nominate him as a deputy. He said Kılıçdaroğlu had promised to nominate him as a deputy candidate when he resigned from the post. “I had to trust my chairman,” he said. He argued that the party was moving towards the right.
The CHP’s Şanlıurfa provincial branch as well as local branches in Şanlıurfa’s districts have resigned en masse in protest of Kılıçdaroğlu’s list. Deputies Hilmi Yarayıcı and Enver Aysever also resigned in protest at the nomination of Ergenekon suspects.
Kılıçdaroğlu also put his own choices at the top of the candidate lists in provinces where the party held preliminary elections, such as Aydın, Çorum, Denizli, Gaziantep, Manisa, Muğla, Sivas, Tekirdağ and Trabzon, which is likely to further add to tension in the party.
However, the CHP has been applauded for nominating 109 female candidates.
Commenting on the lists yesterday, Kılıçdaroğlu said his party had made a “revolution.” “We are happy with the feedback we are receiving. The nation and our local branches are pleased with the nominations,” he said.
MHP wants to appeal central right
The opposition MHP, which made the least changes its current deputy lists compared to other parties, aims to appeal to voters of the central right with candidates who were engaged in politics in the True Path Party (DYP) and the Motherland Party (ANAP). Celal Adan and Sümer Oral were among these figures.
In a move that has not come as a surprise, the MHP nominated retired Gen. Engin Alan from İstanbul’s first electoral region. Alan is a suspect in the case into Sledgehammer, a suspected military plot. Former soccer player Saffet Sancaklı and former head of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), Yusuf Halaçoğlu are also among the MHP candidates. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli will run in the elections from his hometown of Osmaniye, while former AK Party deputy Murat Başesgioğlu was nominated from İstanbul.
The pro-Kurdish BDP previously announced its candidate list and said it will run in the elections with 64 independent deputies in 41 provinces because it faces the risk of failing to pass the 10 percent election threshold if it runs in the elections as a party.
The candidates include six suspects who are currently standing trial in the ongoing case of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban arm of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).