CHP İzmir deputy Canan Arıtman, a figure critical of the current CHP administration, said such pledges cause “concern and unhappiness” among the party's grass roots.
Stating that party members and the grass roots were not consulted with on this issue, Arıtman said no CHP election or party program can include such a pledge. “This pledge seems to be an individual decision of the party chairman. We did not hear about such a decision being made during meetings of the [Central Executive Board] MYK or the [Party Council] PM. I can say that such autonomy-like pledges create concern among the party's grass roots. They cause concern and unhappiness. … I hope such remarks do not lead the CHP to lose support,” she was quoted as saying by the Cihan news agency on Tuesday.
In a move to get the support of Turkey's Kurds, Kılıçdaroğlu pledged to grant autonomy to local governments during a speech in the predominantly Kurdish province of Hakkari on Monday as part of his election campaign. “We will give local governments autonomy, as is the case in Europe,” he said.
Autonomy for municipalities has long been a demand of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and its predecessors. The Democratic Society Congress (DTK), which describes itself as a local organization of Kurds in eastern Turkey and which has connections to the BDP, late last year proposed the principle of “democratic autonomy.” This principle requires that local governments be granted autonomy from the centralized system in their affairs regarding education, security and external relations.
Kılıçdaroğlu vowed to implement European regulations for local governments. He also voiced criticism over the detention of Kurdish mayors as part of an investigation into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella political organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist organization. The KCK investigation started in December 2009, and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several mayors from the BDP, have been detained in the case.
In what could be seen as a U-turn from his earlier position, however, the CHP leader stated on Tuesday that Turkey's being divided into states or federations is out of the question. Speaking to reporters in Ardahan, he said: "We favor the elimination of some fears and concerns there [in eastern and southeastern Turkey.] Being divided into states or causing a division in Turkey is out of the question. What did I say there [in Hakkari]? Municipalities [in Turkey] already have autonomy under conditions respected by the EU. Who says that they do not? Who elects mayors? Mayors are elected by the public."
‘CHP leader trying to appeal to BDP voters'
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç was also critical of Kılıçdaroğlu's remarks. “I was disappointed to hear the main opposition leader's statements made in Hakkari,” he said on Tuesday. Arınç criticized the CHP chairman for engaging in populist policies to get more votes in the Southeast, where the CHP generally receives fewer votes than in western parts of the country.
“Unfortunately, Kılıçdaroğlu is siding with the BDP during his visits to the region. He is doing things that cannot be expected when taking into consideration the CHP's principles. This is wrong. The Kurdish issue cannot be addressed in this way. Kılıçdaroğlu is promising more than the BDP. He is trying to get the support of the BDP,” he said.
Arınç also criticized the CHP leader's comments on the KCK case. “Standing behind the suspects in this case just to gather more support from people in Hakkari is betraying the realities of this country. The KCK is the urban arm of the PKK. The indictment says that,” Arınç said.
Claims emerged on Monday that the BDP had encouraged its supporters to attend the CHP rally in Hakkari and wanted business owners who closed their shops last week during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to the province to keep their shops open on Monday.