Friday, April 25, 2008

CHP Authoritarianism, Part II

PHOTO from the Turkish Daily News

As CHP prepares for its party congress tomorrow, the party is being criticized for its lack of intra-party democracy. Baykal has been elected as CHP's leader nine times in a row and has had year's to organize the party so as to eliminate the slightest showing of viable opposition to his iron-clad rule. Under CHP's by-laws, contenders for the leadership of the party need to have the support of 20 percent of of the party's 1,300 delegates to even be nominated. To make securing this support even more difficult, Baykal has sought to control the local party elections of these delegates. In cases where officials oppose Baykal at the local level, the leader is able to have them removed

From the Turkish Daily News:
There are only two candidates, Haluk Koç and Umut Oran, with the slimmest hope of becoming official candidates and they need the support of 243 party delegates. The ordeal seems to be an impossible one, given Baykal's purge tactics, which were well tested by authoritarian parties in the 1930s.

Baykal has led the party since 1992, except for a brief interlude from 1999-2001. “Since 1996, Baykal has cleansed the party of any possible strong opposition,” said Sedat Bozkurt, Ankara representative of FOX TV. “Candidates against Baykal are from merely third-class cadres, as Baykal systematically removed any potential leaders,” he said.

The election of delegates, who in turn will elect the party leader, at local party meetings, is a telling example of Baykal's grip on the party.

Former CHP deputy and retired Ambassador İnal Batu stressed that what people call delegates are actually a strata of Baykal's men.

“Delegates have no connection whatsoever with the party base. In every congress, those who oppose Baykal suffer swift elimination. In the last congress those who supported Sarıgül, provincial and district level party administrators, as well as mayors, were all purged. Not one of them survived,” Batu said.

“The party center reigns over local party elections where delegates are designated. Baykal's delegates have won all provincial and district level elections,” Bozkurt said, noting that Baykal canceled local delegate elections that upset him, just to make sure he is invincible.

“Party founders and lawmakers are natural delegates. Among 99 deputies, there are really few who would oppose him. In Istanbul alone, 159 delegates are submitting signed statements pledging they will support Baykal,” Bozkurt said, pointing to the fact that this would give Baykal a 90 to 95 percent supremacy at the congress.
Today's Zaman has run profiles of both challengers Umut Orhan and Professor Haluk Koç. The paper also ran informative analysis of the effects of CHP's inta-party politics that begins with an intriguing statement made by Bülent Ecevit in 2004:
"It is impossible to have a real left-wing party and a pure democracy in Turkey unless the CHP is closed down. Therefore, the CHP has to leave the political scene and reorganize itself as an association."
Thoughts? For more on CHP and the left in Turkey, see my Feb. 12 post.

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