Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was re-elected as chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for his fourth consecutive term at his the party’s convention over the weekend, saying he aimed to renew the CHP’s management with “more new and young faces.”
Kılıçdaroğlu received the votes of 990 delegates out of 1,238, running alone as his sole contender İzmir deputy Mustafa Balbay failed to garner the required number of signatures to be a candidate.
“We will open a new page in Turkey. We will bring democracy and freedoms. We will fight unemployment. We will be the party of the poor and the disowned. We will defend their rights,” Kılıçdaroğlu said after his re-election to the leadership was announced late on Jan. 16.
The 1,238 party delegates were on Jan. 17 due to elect the 60-seat Party Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the CHP from which Kılıçdaroğlu picks his closest aides to the Central Decision-Making Council (MYK). Around 700 party members applied to run for the Party Assembly, as Kılıçdaroğlu encouraged more youngsters and women to race for a seat at the assembly.
The CHP’s convention started on Jan. 15 with a long speech by Kılıçdaroğlu full of criticism targeting the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The point at which Turkey has arrived is not a promising one. We are facing the reality that Turkey is not well-governed. The government is responsible for this pessimistic picture,” he said.
Among the key pieces of evidence that the government cannot rule properly is the “rise of terrorism,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, recalling that when the AKP took power in 2002 terrorism was almost at “zero.”
“They took over in 2002 when there was zero terror but they turned the country into a bloodbath. Who is responsible for this?” he added, saying the way the government had launched talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ (PKK) was a “serious mistake.”
“What is the difference between the photos currently being taken in Turkey’s southeast and those coming from Syria or Lebanon?” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
First four articles a ‘red line’ for new charter
Underlining his party’s willingness to support initiatives to renew Turkey’s constitution along “pro-freedom and democratic” lines, Kılıçdaroğlu also vowed that the CHP will not negotiate the first four articles of the current charter, which describe the characteristics of the Turkish state as “democratic, secular, social and rule of law-based.”
“We’ll actively participate in efforts to rid our country of junta-made laws. But we won’t allow the country to be remade upon the personal views of any one individual,” he said, referring to Erdoğan’s ambition to change the system to a presidential one.
“We will not allow a change in the system. You make references to the Ottoman Empire all the time. Don’t you know the Ottomans also had a parliamentary system? Why now this change?” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
Harsh words for president
The reelected CHP head also slammed Erdoğan over his frequent interventions into political life, despite the fact that the constitution requires him to remain neutral.
“We know how concepts like honor and pride. If one gives one’s word of honor, he or she should fulfill this to the death. Because honor and pride are undisputable for us. You tell us, so-called dictator, what do honor and pride mean to you?” he asked.
Upon Kılıçdaroğlu’s harsh words, AKP Deputy Chair Selçuk Özdağ, who had been invited to the convention by the CHP, left the convention center.
“I decided to leave because he went too far in his criticisms against a president elected with the votes of 52 percent of the people,” Özdağ later said.
In response to Özdağ, CHP Secretary-General Gürsel Tekin described his behavior as “intolerant.”
“The conventions of political parties observe political rhetoric. Is our chairman only supposed to voice these criticisms at home? Can there be a political understanding so intolerant to such criticisms?” Tekin said.