The election of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, an Istanbul deputy, as the party chair at the latest congress of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) drew the public’s attention to the future of the party. Those who call themselves social democrats overwhelmingly believed that with Baykal as party chair, the CHP had no chance of success at the next elections. The motive behind Kılıçdaroğlu’s election reflected this concern. Observers of Turkish politics have closely analyzed and written about the CHP. There are two central reasons for this keen interest in the place of the CHP in the future of Turkish politics. First, the CHP’s roots are grounded in the foundation of the Republic. And second, the CHP has the strongest chance against the current governing party, the AK Party. However, despite the CHP’s strong historical tradition and social base, political analysts still question the CHP’s ability to be elected and form a government, as it has been unable to do so for almost a quarter of a century.
The New Leader for the Old CHP: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
The CHP constitutes a crucial place in Turkish political life. From its establishment to its closure after the military intervention of September 12, 1980, the CHP occasionally became a partner of coalition governments and came to power alone. The party was reopened and became more powerful after merging with the SHP in the 1990s. After the resignation of Baykal from party chairmanship in May 2010, whether new party chair would be able to extend the party base and become electorally successful has been started to be discussed. The new party chair Kılıçdaroğlu has a differentiated view of society, politics, democracy and freedom compared to Baykal. But then, the main problem is whether this difference would be able to turn the CHP into an alternative political power against the AK Party.
The wave of transition the CHP is riding should move it towards social democracy, which includes a fundamental change in the political culture of the party.
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