The videotape and the first step
In his interview, Sav starts off by talking about the videotape and then says: “Chairman Baykal left his position as chairman during the most distressing and problematic period in Turkey. He left us in charge of matters that concerned us. From now on we are going to deal with matters that concern us. The party is going to be in charge. Baykal has taken a place along memorable figures in history like Mustafa Kemal, İsmet Paşa and Bülent Ecevit.” Sav went on to say: “After the group meeting, I threw a curve ball at the media. I said no one should rub their hands together in glee because Baykal resigned.” The journalist conducting the interview asks Sav if it became clear Kılıçdaroğlu would become the new leader the same evening Baykal decided to resign. “Yes,” he says. “He has a strong style and much influence in public opinion. The support of the public is not something that can be ignored. We met a few times at places unknown to others. Kemal complied -- he is a tight-lipped politician.”
With these words, Sav displayed his stance on the new CHP leader, pushed Baykal to the background and attempted to lay the groundwork for Kılıçdaroğlu’s chairmanship. Referring to Kılıçdaroğlu, former secretary-general Sav said: “I have Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu’s written application in my hand, signed as the group vice chairman. He wants a room to be allocated to make an announcement. I signed the official letter and referred it to the relevant unit. They asked me what he was going to do with the room. I said I didn’t know. Maybe he is going to say he is not a candidate, maybe he is going to say he is a candidate, or maybe he is going to say something else. Why would I ask such a question. I know he is going to meet with someone [referring to Baykal]. They thought Kılıçdaroğlu and I were rivals and that I was going to topple him. But that was just a deliberate misleading.” With these words, Sav opened the way for Kılıçdaroğlu to become a candidate. In fact by saying Gürsel Tekin may have even thought he let Kılıçdaroğlu “slip” from his grip, Sav perhaps inadvertently revealed there were plans in the party concerning Kılıçdaroğlu.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s perplexing actions
Up to this point, we explained how Kılıçdaroğlu’s role as chairman, not leader, began. Now let’s take a look at Kılıçdaroğlu’s perplexing actions. The statements the CHP leader made after going through an Oedipal complex (the desire to kill one’s father and take his place) can be considered a manifestation of his “sincerity.”
“Why can the CHP do it? Because the CHP is a revolutionary and reformist party. We are going to carry the revolution and reform all the way,” Kılıçdaroğlu had said. Indeed, we can see just how revolutionary the CHP really is. The CHP is a stagnant structure that is searching for a way to save people who are being accused of membership to a criminal organization, that calls the Turkish army a paper tiger and shamelessly keeps the same so-called “revolutionary” people in office. It is a structure that sees a revolution as an attempt to overthrow the established system. “Look at the [Justice and Development Party] AK Party’s economic policy. They say don’t produce. We are going to build a Turkey that is productive again,” Kılıçdaroğlu had said.
I wonder if as the leader of CHP he has ever conducted a sociological analysis? Are there any social problems he has solved? The expression “My name is Kemal; if I say I will do it, then I will do it” is not an acceptable response in postmodern Turkey. A 1980 style political system did not emerge from the polls in the 2010 referendum. If production simply involves the ability to speak, then comedians are the most productive forces. The CHP leader had said: “We respect all ethnicities. We welcome all of our ethnically diverse citizens and we have respect for all faiths. We are going to end discriminatory policies in the East and Southeast.” Yet he never mentioned the word “Kurdish” in his speech. The CHP is still a victim of the status quo. As long as it continues to feel the need to transform everything into a uniform state, it’s difficult to expect the CHP to take any social action. Kılıçdaroğlu had also said that “health insurance for the family is the way to solve poverty. Every family will have insurance.” Okay, but how?
In sociology, the most important thing is answering the question “how.” The CHP fails to answer this question. Why? Probably because it hasn’t put much thought into the promises it is making. The CHP is experiencing trouble with its discourse. Something else Kılıçdaroğlu said was, “Is this democracy or fascism? We will not permit fascism.” Can you imagine a CHP without fascism? That would be a miracle. But since the last prophet has already come and gone, there is no chance of a miracle. We should expect the CHP to take such an initiative for the sake of humanity. But that isn’t possible either as Süheyl Batum, who speaks independently from Kılıçdaroğlu, has destroyed this hope as well. Kılıçdaroğlu had said the CHP would put an end to partisan media if it came to power. This is perhaps where the perplexing behavior manifests itself the most. Kılıçdaroğlu himself became a chairman with the support of the media. Not just the Turkish nation, but even the international conjuncture the CHP takes refuge in attests to this truth.
In sociology, an object or leader that is a product of popular culture experiences from time to time a culture shock. We hope Kılıçdaroğlu does not go through a shock. Referring to the headscarf issue, the CHP leader says, “We can’t afford to alienate anyone.” He makes some additional statements but then suddenly he changes his mind. Why? Of course because a tsunami is coming from the grassroots. The wave will topple even this “revolutionary” leader. What’s interesting is that Kılıçdaroğlu is unknowingly alienating himself from a large group of people. It seems he needs some help from a sociologist.
“The CHP is a party that brought about a multi-party regime. We brought democracy to this country and we will bring democracy to parties as well,” he has said. There is value in reading about how the multi-party system came to Turkey. It didn’t happen as easily as it is claimed. If even Kazım Karabekir Pasha is being disregarded for this objective, then we should stop and think for a moment. It seems really difficult to conclude that anyone in the CHP today is as patriotic as Karabekir Pasha and could do a fraction of what he did for this country. It is not easy to read and understand history. Kılıçdaroğlu’s simple description of such an important issue shows just how little informed he is about the CHP’s past. His style is not compatible with political ethics. It would be beneficial for Kılıçdaroğlu to learn what political ethics mean. Ethics are universal and do not change according to location and time. But the CHP has managed to misuse ethics for its own purposes. And finally, Kılıçdaroğlu is a main opposition leader who has expressed a desire to join Ergenekon and fails to see the bad in the good. It is a shame.
It is obvious that the CHP is undergoing major changes. The “reformist” wind that began in the party after Kılıçdaroğlu became the chairman was maintained in the most recent party convention. However the CHP appears to be in conflict with the conditions of postmodernity.
The popular postmodern philosopher Jean-François Lyotard claimed postmodernism brought the end of grand narratives. According Lyotard, grand narratives should be abandoned and local and micro narratives should prevail. But contrary to postmodern culture, Kılıçdaroğlu continues to speak with the language of the modern world. The promises he made in CHP’s last convention can be considered major narratives for Turkey. What did Kılıçdaroğlu say? He vowed to abolish the ten percent election threshold, lift the private consumption tax (ÖTV) on fuel, reduce oil prices by half, eliminate various taxes, abolish the Higher Education Board (YÖK) and to abolish the Military Higher Administrative Court.
It’s very difficult to believe in these promises that are no more than mere rhetoric. Making such promises contradicts the political ethics law which CHP promises to prepare. The fact that these promises contradict each other is an indicator of Kılıçdaroğlu’s sincerity. Grand narratives like this are not new in Turkey; in fact, they are traditional. But it should not be forgotten that the public no longer falls for such narratives. Indeed postmodernity has a tendency to inflate popular culture but conditions change once the balloon pops. Lastly, we should ask CHP constituents how correct it is to expect a chairman who goes to Eskişehir to pin a party badge on a party member to exhibit leadership qualities.
CHP and today
It is also useful to look at the CHP’s current condition. It seems confidence is low within CHP, which is more like the set of a soap opera than a political party, as well. How can the public trust a party that doesn’t trust itself? Recent news stories and events have further eroded confidence in the party. The statements by İklim Bayraktar Kaleli and her telephone conversations, which were reported in the media, is concrete evidence that everyone in the CHP is out to get each other. What does the evidence include? Bayraktar took part in a television program called “Teke Tek” (One on One) on Habertürk TV. She explained her side of the story, but denied some of the statements published in the newspapers. First she said Muharrem İnce wanted to meet with her about a month ago and that İnce was intoxicated at the time. İnce gave Bayraktar information about the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu. In response to whatever İnce told her, Bayraktar asked, “What if it is not true?” Why did Bayraktar make such a comment? More precisely, what did İnce tell Bayraktar that compelled her to say that?
Was it a show of fidelity to the CHP and loyalty to the chairman? But then Bayraktar told Gürsel Tekin, who later phoned Soner Yalçın, what happened -- which is how the incident became public. But why did Tekin, who was someone Baykal trusted very much, do such a thing? Like İnce, Tekin was showing his loyalty to his old-time friend and party chairman in this way. Then Bayraktar explained her conversation with Kılıçdaroğlu. According to the Taraf daily (March 8, 2011), Bayraktar wanted to get former CHP leader Baykal on tape. She asks Kılıçdaroğlu for help saying she was going to catch him a “big fish.” She asks Kılıçdaroğlu to support her and to provide some equipment. “Support me, give me strength. Don’t say no; it’s not an option,” she says according to telephone records. Kılıçdaroğlu doesn’t stop her or tell her to not do it; rather, he says, “Do it with your own resources.”
How can a chairman talk about the previous chairman in this way? But in contrast to these records, Bayraktar told Fatih Altaylı, the host of the program “Teke Tek,” that she never asked Kılıçdaroğlu for a video camera or tape recorder. There are two possibilities: Either Bayraktar tends to change her comments depending on the time and place, or, what she wanted from Kılıçdaroğlu was some other electronic device, not necessarily a recording device. Now let’s move on from the discussion of who said what to who is telling the truth. Doesn’t anyone in the party think about how this tragicomic incident will affect public perception? Just think about it. The current chairman came to office after the former chairman was unseated by a tape scandal. He took responsibility for all the “no” votes obtained in the referendum held after he came to office, continues to engage in politics by espousing 1980-era political discourses, does not make any constructive remarks about the Kurdish issue, constantly makes conflicting remarks about the headscarf issue and continues these practices on a daily basis. The vision of political party leaders in Turkey deeply affects the practices of their parties. Those who don’t believe this should look at the development of political parties in Turkish politics. But they don’t have to look too far; the AK party is a great example.
Conclusion and recommendation
Alongside these findings, the following points can be made for CHP constituents. In real life there is absolute no similarity between Kılıçdaroğlu and Mahatma Gandhi, to whom Kılıçdaroğlu is compared. Gandhi was a people’s leader and was someone from among the people. Above everything else, Gandhi was a devout person. He protected his religious and local traditions against colonization. Do those who compare Kılıçdaroğlu to Gandhi feel the same way about him after all that has happened? Gandhi was a leader who met the leadership criteria described by sociologist Max Weber, but Kılıçdaroğlu does not fit any of them. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to fit the category of a rational leader. It is time to ask CHP constituents: Which is preferred, a leader that is compared to Gandhi but does not carry any of his attributes or a leader that is compared to Mustafa Kemal?
*Adem Palabıyık is a research assistant at Muş Alparslan University’s department of sociology