Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rally Around . . . Baykal?

CHP's party congress concluded yesterday as expected—little changed. In fact, change seems more hopeless than before since CHP leader Deniz Baykal, elected Saturday for the tenth time, further consolidated his power by purging the party's leadership of those few who had made steps to oppose him. Some members of the party's council and central executive committee supported the candidacies of Haluk Koç and Umut Orhan or had expressed views contrary to Baykal's and the neo-nationalist message with which he has dominated the party. What is particularly sad is that neither candidate posed much change for the party. Koç is a long-time Baykal supporter who largely shares his neo-nationalist view and Oran's views are by no means radical.

I have met no CHP supporters who actually like Baykal, but yet he continues to get elected. This just goes to show how much control he is able to wield within the party and confirm earlier analysis about the party's authoritarian structure (see May 25 post and April 9 post). Baykal will continue to beat the drum of secularism and represent himself as the embodiment of Kemalism. In the meantime, it is up to leftists to either found a party with an opposing view or seek some revolutionary way to change CHP. The former is made difficult by the divided and feeble nature of Baykal's opposition and the requirements that parties must pass the ten percent threshold and run candidates in all provinces in all districts thoughout the country in order to be elected to parliament. After yesterday, the latter seems all the more impossible. Perhaps a progressive party with a less rabidly nationalist message will manage to find its way into parliament the way DTP and DSP have by running candidates as independents.

However, some are more skeptical and see no chance of CHP reforming or a liberal party emerging within the political structure defined by the 1982 constitution. Former CHP Çankaya mayor Doğan Taşdelen told Today's Zaman,
"It was exactly like I expected. They made a complete purge [of critics]. If you plant a rotten seed in infertile soil, it will not sprout. Such infertile soil was prepared in Turkey with the Sept. 12 coup for political movements. This ground is now yielding its own fruit. Not a single decent left wing party has come into being in Turkey since that date. Not a single democratic or liberal party has been formed since that time. And it cannot happen. We shouldn't try to fool ourselves. But now, the people are aware that the ground is unproductive. Now the ground will have to be transformed."
If Baykal is determined to prevent the rise of a viable leftist challenge to AKP, and thus to CHP, he has all the more reason to resist the constitution. It is convenient for him that he can call such a move an attack on nationalism and secularism and have so many rally around him.

Where have all the leftists gone? Really, when will they ever learn?

See my Feb. 12 post for an attempt to answer this question.

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