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CHP’s Struggle for Governance: A History of Opposition and the Current Political Landscape

CHP is not a party programmed for governance. The last chairman of the party that founded the Republic was Bülent Ecevit. That CHP ended with the coup on September 12, 1980. Today’s CHP came to be under Deniz Baykal, who, after failing three times to overthrow Erdal İnönü at extraordinary conventions, left the SHP and took over.

When the rights of the parties closed on September 12 were reinstated, Erol Tuncer gathered the last delegates and reopened the party in 1992, but soon lost the chairmanship to Deniz Baykal. At that time, SHP and DSP were strong; Baykal started from far behind.

He tried to restore CHP’s former prestige with emphases like “Atatürk’s party, the six arrows.” He first absorbed SHP, and as DSP got crushed under the economic crisis, he became the sole leftist power. However, he was never a true alternative for governance, and he sincerely never wanted it.

Had Baykal not been ousted by a unfortunate tape scandal in 2010, he would have held onto the party until his death. He left, but the tradition continued.

Following Deniz Baykal’s death on February 11, 2023, two journalists shared their accounts from two different periods.

The first, Temuçin Tüzecan: “I was interviewing Baykal for the BBC in 1986. I asked if he considered purging politics of the impacts of September 12. He brushed it off. Later, I asked again. He looked at me slightly mockingly and said, ‘Why should I disrupt something that works to my advantage?'”

The second journalist, Hilal Köylü, shared one of their many conversations that she won’t forget:

Hilal Köylü: Have you ever thought about being in power one day?

Baykal: CHP is a good opposition party. It’s very good at that. No, man, what governance?

CHP members haven’t gotten over the shock of the March 31 victory. They are just beginning to realize that the comfort of being in opposition is behind them. The unnamed political agreement with AKP members, which involved sharing certain dealings in municipalities, no longer operates as before.

Tenders are being followed, distribution of benefits to party members is conspicuous, and nepotism is exposed on the same day. The neighborhood isn’t the same anymore:

-AKP’s media gives no respite.

-Party members expect governance-worthy municipal management.

-CHP-aligned media is critical.

I understand those who are upset about CHP leader Özgür Özel’s friendliness with AKP trolls and taking photos in his office, but still, I can’t help but ask, “What were you expecting?”

Didn’t Ekrem İmamoğlu take a memory photo with Nagehan Alçı, Akif Beki, and Ertuğrul Özkök on his bus on May 3, 2022, two years ago? But what really caught my attention was the greeting sent by Cübbeli Ahmet to Özgür Özel on Ekol TV three days ago: “He visited me several times in prison, asked about my medicines. He said, ‘I’m a pharmacist.’ We have a relationship, I am not ungrateful. He is a red line for me. He gave me his card, told me ‘write to me for the slightest thing.'” (May 7, 2024)

Özgür Özel was on Habertürk last night, very offended by the criticisms from within his party regarding his relations with trolls: “It’s not being said that; if the chairman is doing it, it must be right. Because he knows.”

He might as well have said “his wisdom should not be questioned.”

On September 1, 2022, in Bafra, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was asked, “What concrete solution will you offer for the people dismissed by statutory decrees when you come to power?” He replied, “All will be reinstated!” Then, Özgür Özel appeared on screens saying, “We’d hang ourselves before doing such a thing!” He corrected his party leader, saying, “We will reinstate those acquitted by the judiciary.”

I must say: Everything in the country has hit such a low that the people, shaking off the AKP and Erdoğan, are beginning to say, “Fall already, leave us alone!” The clear go-to place for them is CHP and the party’s presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu. It seems Özgür Özel is just setting the stage for İmamoğlu.

Deniz Baykal never targeted governance. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu wanted it but it didn’t happen. Now, CHP has this chance this term. They don’t need to write an epic in the municipalities, just avoid a major mistake or scandal.

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