Helalleşme and the CHP’s New Political Strategy

    We will make this party a truly modern and civilised party.” (CHP [YouTube Channel], 13 June 2023), stated Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the presidential candidate who was defeated in the second round of elections on 28 May. After the defeat, Kılıçdaroğlu has been silent except for one appearance on a TV station close to the CHP, which has led to significant criticism. Since then, the CHP chairman has been under attack from CHP circles.

    Many journalists, writers and politicians, including Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, a popular face of the party, think that the CHP leadership needs to change. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is seen as responsible not only for the 2023 elections but also for other defeats during his 13-year presidency.

    In all 13 elections and referendums since 2002, the ruling AK Party has come out on top. In the 2023 elections, the Turkish people gave this party the mandate to govern the country for another five years (after two decades in power). Conversely, the

    CHP received between 20 and 25 per cent of the vote in all elections. In the presidential elections since 2014, President Erdoğan has maintained a 52% share of the vote in every election.

    While heated discussions about “change” spiralled within CHP circles, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who has been the party’s leader since 2010, insists alongside his leadership team on maintaining the current agenda.

    Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s call for a “modern and civilised” party represents an ironic symbolism. Since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 2023, the CHP has presented itself as the address of modernity and civilisation, criticising its rivals, especially the AK Party government in the last two decades, as reactionary. Today, Kılıçdaroğlu’s vision of modernisation for the CHP is a first-hand admission that the party has missed something. In fact, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has made significant changes in the CHP during his presidential career.

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