Today, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) has seized a great opportunity that the Welfare Party (RP) also seized and made use of 25 years ago: reaching distant, foreign or even enemy fractions through the Metropolitan municipality. Will the CHP be able to make use of this opportunity, or will it waste it due to corruption, infraction and favouritism?
Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök
Hello, good day, good week. First of all, I forgot to buy flowers today. Today I’m broadcasting without flowers, I’m sorry. I’ll hopefully make up for this tomorrow. Yes, today I want to talk a little about the CHP. The reason I want to talk about the CHP is because they had a meeting with the mayors of Afyon on the weekend; they stayed there for 2-3 days and discussed a lot of issues. Our friends from Medyascope also watched the meeting. It was clearly a productive, active get together. Another aspect is, during the meetings, I had a chance to speak to some people from the CHP in Istanbul. They are seriously searching to see how to reach new fractions, fractions they don’t have access to. We discussed this a bit. I want to relay some of the aspects I discussed as well as discussing the meeting in Afyon.
When 25 years ago the RP – Istanbul and Ankara being at the forefront – achieved victories in the municipalities, it seized the opportunity to get in contact with people in Turkey who weren’t necessarily from their circles, who were afraid of themselves, who never thought of voting. The big cities, the metropolitan municipality heads somewhat fulfilled the role of a trampoline. The activities that took place, especially services aimed at society and first-hand services were very effective in shattering the image of the RP being a strict, sharia-supporting, alienating party. And who benefited from this most? The Justice and Development Party (AKP). But, we know that the RP came out first in a very important election, the general election. It became a partner in coalition. Erbakan became prime minister and with February 28 this coalition crumbled.
One of the most important reasons that the RP became the first party during that date, and later the AKP coming to power alone and being able to sustain its power for years was the municipalities. One foot was in organisations and the other in municipalities. And those that were watching will remember, during the meeting we had with Bekir Ağırdır before the latest local elections, he stated that the AKP’s relationship with organisations and municipalities was seriously damaged – and I think this is a spot-on view. In this respect, a serious field has opened up before the CHP.
The Municipalities: Istanbul, Ankara and also Izmir, Adana, Antalya and Mersin again…all these places are a serious opportunity for the CHP. What sort of opportunity? Just how those people 25 years ago managed to transform their views from antipathy, then empathy and finally sympathy towards the RP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the CHP now has an opportunity to reach those fractions that are distant or would never think of voting for them easily. Municipalities have serious budgets; these budgets, despite all the obstructions that are trying to be planted – President Erdoğan talks about this openly, stating that they will create problems -, despite everything, the scope of opportunities is wide.
And municipalities, especially from the AKP period – previously from the RP, and later from the period of the Virtue Party (FP) and the AKP – these municipalities have serious social service mechanisms. There are certain institutions – from working skills courses to giving students scholarships. And we know that Ekrem İmamoğlu brought this to light during the elections. I think it is possible to say that one of the factors that helped him becoming elected was due to the promises he made towards women, children, students and the elderly. Therefore, the CHP can break its shell here, in the municipalities, Istanbul and Ankara being at the forefront, Izmir and Adana too. If not, the CHP may open the way towards a new heartbreak and, even if it of course does use some of the possibilities of a municipality, it may end up losing more than when it started. In this respect, municipalities are a very serious test.
There are past examples. When we talk about municipalism in Turkey, centre-left parties come to mind first – when we mentioned metropolitan municipalities. But later these, especially with the İSKİ scandal in Istanbul, came to be known with their bribes and corruption. These municipalities left behind a terrible legacy. Afterwards, the RP candidates received votes due to their claims of fighting corruption. And I remember well that during that time, I witnessed it as a journalist, there was a “At least they are Muslim, they won’t accept bribes” point of view. There was an approach that corruption couldn’t take place. This went on and on for a while and afterwards this approach disappeared. Today when we mention AKP municipalities, infractions, corruptions and favouritism comes to mind. People have gotten used to it and are fed up. The view of “At least they are Muslim, they won’t accept bribes” was replaced by “They do accept bribes but at least they are working” for a while. Now maybe the CHP once more, can bring to life the propaganda that the RP used against it 25 years ago. I believe that the reason why CHP candidates were chosen and received votes in metropolitans is due to the foulness, corruption and rotting that the AKP municipalities have experienced, especially in the metropolitan cities.
Therefore, I’m of the view that the CHP should adopt an open, clear and transparent position with regards to corruption, infraction and favouritism. But, when we look at the news being reflected from the CHP municipalities currently, we see a lot of negative examples. Mayors who have added salaries in companies that are shareholders with the municipality, mayors who assign their sons and grooms etc. And they apologise within a short amount of time, they take it back; but this stays in mind.
This is of course not only something that the CHP municipalities have done. For years The AKP municipalities have done similar things and continue to do this. But this is an aspect that has already been accepted. Therefore, an explanation that the “AKP is doing it too” is not acceptable. But we can see that they are trying to do this. And we know that due to the fact the political powers have control over most of the media, these sorts of incidents are spread much quicker to a wider audience easily. Thus, one of the most important elements that the CHP has to focus on is averting corruption, infraction and favouritism. Yet, if we add the fact that they have not had the opportunities of the local municipalities for years, I don’t think it’ll be that easy. But this hunger, the fact that they have not had these opportunities for years, should not be an excuse for anything.
In this new period, how will the CHP municipalities try to reach the people that the CHP has not been able to reach for years? We mustn’t forget: there is a tradition in these municipalities, in the big cities, in Istanbul, in Ankara, in Adana and in Antalya. There is a tradition that municipality leaders of the RP, FP and AKP have formed over the last 25 years in Istanbul and Ankara. We know that they fundamentally look out for their own fractions and those that are close to them.
If the CHP takes over these municipalities, changes everything and turns towards its own fractions, it will be making a huge mistake. If it takes on this legacy, continues in this line – of course whilst not allowing infractions and corruptions – if it continues to sustain certain services, it’ll reach other fractions much easier. Will they be able to do this? Will they want to? I’m not sure. But in Istanbul and Ankara especially, up until now – and this happened in a very short amount of time – the messages received, the messages given, the steps taken, shows us that it may be possible and that it is already taking place happening. It may help in shattering the image of the CHP being the ‘bogey’ across certain fractions, especially in nationalistic-conservative fractions.
Another aspect is the Kurdish problem issue. We know that in the Southwest, the CHP sometimes barely receives 1, 2 maybe 5 percent of the votes in certain places. And this is not something that is really possible. But what can the CHP, especially with its municipality activities, firstly do towards its Kurdish citizens, especially in big cities? Maybe certain language courses etc. could be provided. Steps towards conserving Kurdish culture could be taken. Or maybe certain ‘sibling municipality relationships’ could ve developed with certain municipalities in the Southeast. In this way, maybe it may make certain ways for becoming perhaps not the first, but the second party that the Kurdish voters may choose. And in this respect, the municipality opportunities, especially in big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir may make this easier.
Not only in the Southeast, today the CHP has a very serious popularisation issue in Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, in the centre of the country and in the Black sea region. Here, especially in Central and Eastern Anatolia, the CHP practically do not exist. Again, these municipalities, by gaining attention through the activities they carry out, and through cooperation and solidarity activities they carry out their own opportunities, may be able to open these places up too. I am of the opinion that the CHP will finally be able to open up in Anatolia, Central Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia through the metropolitan municipalities.
The issue of how this will happen is probably not something to think about much. Because truly, the possibilities that the Istanbul Municipality, Ankara Municipality – and Ankara truly has many opportunities to reach out to Central and Eastern Anatolia – are plentiful. Of course, the CHP does not have the opportunity of a centralised government. Of course, whilst it does all this, it must take into account the expectation of its voters. But I think that this is certain: if the municipality opportunities are not wasted and squandered – all the CHP presidential candidates stressed this especially -, if corruption and favouritism can be made rid of, then this is enough to meet the satisfaction of their voters.
Furthermore, this may provide the opportunity to lend a hand to other regions across Turkey. In this respect, the CHP has truly captured a great opportunity. We will see if they manage to succeed or not. Yet, the meeting that took place in Afyon, shows us that this is being taken seriously by party managers and municipality leaders. Of course, it is essential that the CHP members and the voters take on the role of an inspector. If the municipalities are left to municipality heads, if transparency is not asked of them, if this is not asked of them from below, then things can easily get out of hand and we may start to watch the same film over again.
Yes, before I finish, I would like to stress my satisfaction at the decision that the Constitutional Court has taken regarding the Academics for Peace case. It was a late, lacking decision. And regarding the Academics for Peace case, the entire public is aware of who did what, how they did it or didn’t do it. I cannot finish off without stressing that after the Constitutional Court decision, most probably a lot of people – how can I put this? – must have felt a lot of shame for what they did and didn’t do. Yes, that is all I have to say. Have a good day.