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Nevsin Mengu for Sigma Insight is Live Inside The Critical CHP General Assembly (Updated)

Nevsin Mengu for Sigma Insight is Live Inside The Critical CHP General Assembly (Updated)

For the delegates of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) this time of the year is the most exciting, even more so than the general elections.

Nevsin Mengu reporting from the CHP General Assembly

Delegates of CHP from all around Turkey gathered in Ankara to elect the new leadership of the party. This is CHP as we know it. Nobody wants to be a simple member or delegate, everybody wants a title, everybody wants a say in the policymaking. This characteristic also makes CHP hard to lead and even keep in order sometimes. There are always different fractions within the party, and many who are not satisfied by the existing leadership. This congress is also not different. Nearly half of the delegates are candidates for the Party Assembly which has 60 members. Everybody wants a chair somewhere. It is unlikely for Kılıçdaroğlu to be toppled. However supporters of Muharrem İnce, have filled the hall; they are chanting “we are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!”

Not all the members are filled with joy and enthusiasm though. This time the name of the CHP congress is “Justice and Courage Congress”. Old guard of the party is offended by the name; they claim such a name implies CHP was not courageous before. The old guard is also stressing the fact that there are no Ataturk posters on the walls. There are young faces in the congress hall, however seasoned members of the party are disappointed. One of the ex MPs 23rd term Mersin MP Ali Rıza Öztürk, complains, they had had Erdal İnönü and such as the party chairman once, he thinks none of the existing candidates are suitable for CHP.


The congress was usual in the sense that there were two candidates; like the last Congress; Muharrem İnce against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Other popular names declaring their candidacy for chairmanship, like Ümit Kocasakal have not been able to gather enough signatures. 
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had the upper hand, he has control over the majority of the delegates. In Turkish political culture, it is nearly impossible to topple a political party leader.  He called AKP a servant of the interest lobby. He said some are calling CHP the party of intellectuals, he claimed this is not true, and reminded CHP was the first party to voice the rights of workers, working for subcontractor firms.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu likened the Congress to  Sivas Congress in his speech. That was significant. After the first World War, Mustafa Kemal called the representatives of resistance from all around Anatolia to Sivas. Sivas was the initiation of the war of independence of Turks. His words meant war, what will his actions be, time will show. 
Muharrem İnce, Kılıçdaroğlu’s only rival delivered a lively speech. He said Turkey is in the divergence. The Republic is collapsing and the future is being stolen. Rather than AKP he accused CHP itself. He claimed there is a happy minority within CHP, for whom gaining enough votes to govern CHP strongholds like Bakırköy, Çankaya  and etc is enough. He claimed some in CHP just abide by. He said he was not happy with the situation and here he is to resist. 
He used rough words against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling him an ignorant for likening FSA, to Kuvayı Milliye (Turkish Militia during war of independence). He also called Erdoğan a hypocrite. 
Although everybody knew İnce had no chance of winning, his gave his speech quiet enthusiastically.
The leadership of CHP is not changing. However, different fractions within the party is forming. Some members and MPS are thirsty only more than 20 something percent of the votes. Until the next elections, fractions within the party will be active. All are going to try to gain more power within the party, to affect the discourse and policies. None of their job is going to be easy.


Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu entered the hall with chants and applauses. The program started with the “justice” video playing on the big screen. Video covers maybe the only significant movement CHP achieved, last year, the justice march. The only voice over belongs to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the video. Voice over emphasizes justice for everyone. Kılıçdaroğlu underlines CHP is respectful to the “faithful”. Scenes where Kılıçdaroğlu walks arm in arm with veiled ladies are spread in the video. Kılıçdaroğlu took the stage right after the video. He started his speech by sending regards to former chairman Deniz Baykal and Enis Berberoğlu, the CHP MP who is still in prison. Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech is time to time cut with the slogans “Right, Law, Justice”


About The Author

Nevsin Mengu

Born in Ankara in 1982. Studied Political Science at University of Bilkent. Did her masters on Sociology at University of Galatasaray. Worked at several news outlets like Haberturk and Hurriyet. Mostly covered Middle East as a correspondent. From 2009 to 2010, worked for TRT TURK in Tehran. From 2011 until 2017, anchored CNNTURK 18 o’clock news. Now writing opinion pieces for Birgün newspaper and doing weekly interviews for Deutsche Welle.

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