In October he parted ways with the SP because of an intraparty rift. Kurtumuş’s party, which is named the Voice of the Public Party (HAS Party), was introduced to the public early this week and now many are questioning whether this party, under the leadership of its soft-spoken, calm leader, will be able to attract substantial public support and become an alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has led a single-party government in Turkey since 2002.
Although analysts agree that it is too early to make thorough and exact assessments about the prospects of the party’s success, they do not draw an optimistic picture when looking at the list of the party’s founders and the leftist-discourse it has adopted.
While introducing his newly established HAS Party to the press, Kurtulmuş said his party would not be positioned on the right or the left or become a conservative or liberal party. “This will be a party that is centered on the public. This is how we define our party,” he told reporters.
Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman in a phone interview, a columnist for the Bugün daily, Ahmet Taşgetiren, said the non-homogenous formation -- meaning that there are people from various ideologies -- of the HAS Party’s founders makes it difficult to say anything about the position of the party.
“Kurtulmuş says the HAS Party will be at the center but how it will define this center is of importance,” said Taşgetiren.
The founders of the HAS Party bear the various colors of the political spectrum. In addition to figures from the SP, there are names from the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN), Democrat Party (DP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP) among the founders of the HAS Party such as Beyhan Aslan, Refaeddin Şahin, Ümmet Kandoğan and Çağrı Erhan. Former Virtue Party (FP) deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu, Turkish United Workers’ Party leader Zeki Kılıçaslan as well as Cem Somel, a writer from the left-wing Evrensel newspaper, are also among HAS Party’s founders.
While explaining his joining the HAS Party as a leftist figure, Kılıçaslan said: “When Mr. Kurtulmuş was introducing the HAS Party to me, he said it would be a party that is against imperialism, neo-liberal policies and brutal exploitation policies. He also said the party would be the people’s party and not be based on religion or conservatism.”
Taşgetiren said the SP became a point of attraction due to Kurtulmuş’s leadership, attitude and discourse, which have received admiration from the public; however, he said Kurtulmuş’s new party does not seem to be a continuation of his former political line.
“The HAS Party seems to have adopted a leftist discourse. It seems to be addressing mostly the victimized segments of society. It seems to have adopted an anti-imperialist discourse in its foreign policy. Kurtulmuş’s new party was expected to position itself somewhere in between the AK Party and the SP. The party is giving itself a try with its founders list,” said Taşgetiren, adding that he would not approve of the party’s positioning itself as “Islamic-leaning and leftist” at the same time.
The HAS Party has become the 67th political party in Turkey and will run in the general elections of 2011. Kurtulmuş decided to part ways with the SP following a confrontation with the party’s honorary leader Necmettin Erbakan, who later succeeded Kurtulmuş despite his old age.
Looking at the party’s name, Star daily columnist İbrahim Kiras, who discussed the prospects of success for the HAS Party in one of his columns last week, said the party’s adopting such a “non-evocative” name makes it seem like it has a tendency not to aspire to any mission.
“What was I expecting from this party, their coming to power to save the nation? The AK Party, which is like their twin, is already in power. In this regard, the HAS Party’s setting out as a ‘mass party’ was wrong. Instead, the new party should have aimed to become a political and intellectual focus of the Islamic movement. My expectation from Mr. Kurtulmuş and his team was their creating a ‘mission party,’ which is loyal to Turkey’s centuries-long Islamic intellectual tradition,” suggested Kiras.