CHP parliamentary group leader Özel announces candidacy for party leadership, criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu’s policies

Turkish main opposition CHP Group Chair Özgür Özel has announced his candidacy for the party leadership in a press conference, criticizing current leader Kılıçdaroğlu’s policies. The CHP is expected to hold a general congress later in this year.

CHP parliamentary group leader Özgür Özel holding his manifesto titled "Century of Change, Change of the Century," while announcing his candidacy for the party leadership on Sept. 15 in the party's headquarters in capital Ankara.

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group leader Özgür Özel on Sept. 15 announced his candidacy for the party leadership for the general congress that is expected to be held later in 2023.

In a press conference held in the CHP headquarters in capital Ankara, Özel criticized CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s policies. 

“The great hope and belief in change (of the government) in Turkey before the election quickly turned into deep disappointment (with the electoral loss). Contrary to social demands and needs, our party's management did not seriously investigate the reasons for the defeat and draw a new road map. They made different excuses for the result and did not take political responsibility for the defeat,” Özel said.

“They focused on maintaining power within the party. Having lost their sense of trust, our voters were dragged into an emotional rupture so intense that they abandoned our party and even politics. The party management chose to ignore this rupture rather than detecting this situation and taking steps to repair it,” Özel noted and added that the party’s management did not apologize for the electoral defeat from the people who believed in change.

The 48-year-old parliamentary deputy said they will move forward with new approaches for a new politics in the new century of the Republic of Turkey. “We take an uncompromising position on the side of the working class, (we are with them while they experience) pressure for producing more that increases workplace murders, and strike bans. We reject the polarizing approach to politics. We do not accept ethnic and sectarian polarization. We embrace all differences.”

Özel also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu’s move to give 39 deputies to other parties in the Nation Alliance in the general elections. CHP had 169 seats in the parliament out of 600 in the parliament, but 39 deputies out of them were originally from other alliance parties. They were nominated from the CHP because their parties could not pass the seven percent electoral threshold. Some of those deputies were former members and deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), drawing criticism from the secular-leaning CHP voters.

“Alliance politics should not be a politics where those who form alliances are similar to each other. Alliances should be designed in a way that finds a response in the conscience of the party. The fact that our party gave 39 MPs to other parties left unforgettable damage in the history of our party. This process was carried out without internal party control. Even the elected boards were not informed. A management style that does not take responsibility is unacceptable,” Özel said.

“I am running for the party leadership not to be in power within the party, but to make the CHP in power,” he noted.

“If CHP changes, Turkey will change,” Özel also said. The same phrase was used by Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu last week, who is among CHP officials who have been signalling the need for a change in party leadership since party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s presidential election loss to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

43 CHP deputies attended Özel's conference.

Answering the questions of the journalists after the conference, Özel said he will not leave the CHP in case he loses the congress. 

Özel also said “it was regrettable that there is contribution to the lynching campaign against CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu,” criticizing Kılıçdaroğlu’s policies once again.

After Tanrıkulu said the Turkish military once “threw 15 villagers out of a helicopter” and the incident was confirmed by the ECHR, CHP Spokesperson Faik Öztrak said, “Diyarbakır Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu's statements incriminating the Turkish Armed Forces, the apple of our nation's eye, are unacceptable. This issue will be discussed in our authorized bodies.”

After Özel’s conference, CHP Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu stated in a tweet that “Turkey will change if the CHP changes. I wish Özgür Özel and his friends all the best in their new journey - one that will finally change Turkey.”

Following Özel's move, Örsan Öymen, a philosophy professor, also made a press conference in the CHP headquarters and announced that he will run for the CHP leadership, saying that the party "is stuck between the status quoists" represented by the current management and the "fake changeists."

Örsan Öymen is the nephew of Altan Öymen, who was the leader of the CHP between 1999-2000.

Prof. Örsan Öymen

Kılıçdaroğlu lost the presidential election against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by receiving 47.82 percent of the votes in the second round of the race on May 28.

Aside from the presidential election, the CHP received 25.41 percent of the votes in the May 14 parliamentary elections, falling short of expectations. The CHP leader has not resigned from his post, saying that he did not consider the election results as "defeat."

Kılıçdaroğlu has not announced his candidacy for re-election as the CHP leader yet, saying that “I will not be a candidate. I have never been a candidate before. I have never submitted a petition. The party organization nominated me.”

After the elections, Kılıçdaroğlu could not become CHP's parliamentary group leader since he was not elected as a deputy due to his candidacy in the presidential election.