Inept opposition blues

What is the secret of the “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine”? That’s “winning with a disappearing act”, in a nut-shell. That is, now you see Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu and he dexterly shuffles the deck of cards lurking in the shadows, and now you don’t, the cards are open on the table with brand new names facing the voter. Ergo, CHP rises as the legendary phoenix from its ashes.

The suffixe “oğlu” denominates “the son of” -as in “Jefferson”, for example . So here is a tale of three “-oglus”, destined for the consumption of the much esteemed foreign reader who may or may not be a student of Turkish internal politics’ intricacies. This is also a tale about a popular and populist leader, a “democrator” so to speak, who according to some is on his way to establish a “party-state”.

Some more platitudes: The main opposition party here is the CHP and its leader is Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu. The original CHP is Atatürk’s party and hence is “the” party that founded the Republic of Turkey back in 1923. Since the one-party era ended in 1950 however, vascillating between mainstream nationalism and left-of-the-center approaches, CHP emerged as the victor of the elections only twice: in 1973 and 1977, winning %33 and %41.3 of the votes respectively. 

In our times, Mr.Erdoğan’s AKP is in power uninterruptedly since 2002. As Erdoğan’s rise began with his 1994 İstanbul municipal elections win, CHP expects to reciprocate that success story and kick-start its long march to the summit with Mr.Ekrem İmamoğlu’s electoral victory this year.   

Fun fact to take note of, Mr.Erdoğan’s was the lowest percentage win till today registered with only %25.19. Whereas back in 1973, CHP’s Ahmet İsvan, a Robert College graduate who continued his studies in the US, to say a through and through “white Turk”, had broken an all time record with a %63 election’s victory. That was because he had garnered all the have-nots’ support in his time. So much for your cardboard cutout “white Turk” stereotype Ms./Mr.Turkey Pundit, please do excuse me now. 

That’s past history though. Fast forward to our day, meet our third “-oglu”, Ms.Canan Kaftancıoğlu, a medical doctor by profession, motorbike rider, mother and CHP’s İstanbul branch chairwoman. According to many, her clear-eyed politics, steely willpower and no-nonsense organizational skills played a key role in Mr.İmamoğlu’s win. 

The question then almost invites itself: Is CHP finally getting its act together? Not so fast, tiger. Enter another character to our tale: Mr.Necati Özkan is a seasoned professional and succesful entrepreneur in the PR business. Mr.İmamoğlu happens to cooperate with Mr.Özkan since his days as İstanbul’s peripheral but up and coming neighborhood Beylikdüzü’s district mayor.

Victories have many parents, but defeats are orphan, or something in that vein, they say. That’s where our plot thickens. Mr.Özkan’s book with according to some the quite extravagant title “Hero’s Journey” hit the shelves no later than five months after Mr.İmamoğlu declared his stunning victory on the 23rd of June. And, all hell broke loose, again, inside the CHP. 

Mr.Özkan’s sin or profanity, is to claim that “the campaign machine” of which he is the master-mind single-handedly delivered İstanbul at Mr.İmamoğlu’s feet. Whereas, Ms.Kaftancıoğlu, rightly claims her or rather the party organization’s of which she is the chair’s due in the elections results. When asked, Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu plays the family’s wise patriarch by patting down the bickering teens and warns against rolling out in public contradictory narratives. 

Let’s now take a step back. Presidential system was adopted by %52 of the votes following the referendum on the 16th of April, 2017 and Mr.Erdoğan’s had won the presidential elections on the 24th of June, 2018 with again %52 of the ballots cast. Today, according to trustworthy opinion polls (as conducted by Metropoll et al.), when questioned who they would vote for if there was a presidential election the same weekend a mere  %1.1 answered “Kılıçdaroğlu” in late October.    

According to same polls, Mr.İmamoğlu would get around %26 and Mr.Erdoğan around  %45 of the votes. Then, how and/or why Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu remains the main opposition leader? Well because, pushing aside with the back of their hands Mr.Özkan’s PR strategies and Ms.Kaftancıoğlu’s grassroots network, some claim that it was actually the so-called “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine” that carried the day in İstanbul as well as in other metropolitan cities like Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Mersin, Antalya in the latest elections.  

What is the secret of the “Kılıçdaroğlu Doctrine” then? That’s “winning with a disappearing act”, in a nut-shell. That is, now you see Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu and he dexterly shuffles the deck of cards lurking in the shadows, and now you don’t, the cards are open on the table with brand new names facing the voter. Ergo, CHP rises as the legendary phoenix from its ashes. 

In the meantime, one after the other HDP’s elected mayors in the Southeast are being forcefully replaced by government appointed officials. HDP as the third opposition party in the parliament is literally under siege. CHP lent its full support to the “Operation Peace Spring”. Mr.Kılıçdaroğlu had the chutzpah to declare that due the military takeover of Afrin, international aid organizations are now being able to deliver vital humanitarian aid to the local community of that district.      

Did you inquire about the state of the rule of law? Case in point, renowned writer Ahmet Altan was released from prison only to go back in where he came out from, a day later. Freedom of expression? Almost not a single day goes by, without a journalist being brought in for questioning, to remain permanently or not –depending on whether she or he is lucky- under custody. Ditto for the open nerve issues like the Armenian Genocide: The number you are calling can’t be reached at the moment, please try again later. 

Whether you call it “coup permanent”, “militarism”, “authoritarian regime”, “illiberal democracy” or whichever elegant description you choose from your political sciences lexicon, one thing is sure and that is “freedom is NOT on the march” in these climates down here. Sleeping beauty CHP represents his majesty’s loyal opposition at best, or at worst, the metaphorical “dead horse” that one can’t flog to win any race.

CHP’s local elections slogan “everything gonna be alright” remains but a distant memory by now. Hence your humble servant reaches out to his imaginary guitar and pretends singing his inept opposition blues: “Born under a bad sign / Been down since I began to crawl / If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all”. 

September 13, 2021 The new cold war