Last Sunday, the leader of the CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was invited to an unusual meeting in Istanbul’s Fatih district, which has always been a conservative stronghold. While in Fatih, Kılıçdaroğlu spoke to the Suriçi Grubu Platform.

Suriçi means “inside the city walls.” In this case, the walls refer to the ancient Byzantine walls that used to encircle the Istanbul’s old city; the district of Fatih is actually inside those walls. So the group gets its name from the old city Istanbul. The neighborhood of Eminönü, a part of Fatih, used to be the financial heart of Istanbul. Local businesses used to be situated there, and there even used to be a local exchange center where foreign currencies were given values and thus shaped the market. Suriçi Group consists of these traditional businessmen who are very conservative and highly aligned with the ruling party, AKP.

Up until now, the local businessmen used to support AKP without reservation, and it used to be a win-win situation for both parties. Conservative businessmen would provide AKP votes and support; AKP would keep the economy up and working. However, this cooperation seems to be fading.

Apparently, Suriçi Group has divided into two after the last local elections. In last year’s May 31 local elections, CHP’s mayoral candidate for Istanbul, Ekram İmamoğlu, won his election by a small margin. AKP pushed for a redo of the Istanbul election, which resulted in an even bigger win for İmamoğlu. This process divided the Group. Some businessmen formed Suriçi Group Association, while others remained under the name of Suriçi Group Platform. The association remains loyal to Erdoğan, but the platform is looking for new alliances.

In that sense, when Suriçi Group Platform hosts Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, it is a significant development for Turkish politics. One other detail is eye-catching: the provincial head of the CHP, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, was with Kılıçdaroğlu in this peculiar meeting too. Kaftancıoğlu is known to be a strong figure — she doesn’t hide things like eating bacon, and she uses highly feminist terminology. She is one of the most progressive characters in the CHP, so seeing her sitting with very conservative businessmen was quite interesting for those who watch Turkish politics closely.

Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized unity in the speech he gave at the Suriçi Group Platformu meeting. He underlined that there are differences between people in Turkey, but that people should gather under the one flag in spite of their differences. He emphasized the importance of the social state and said that for a prosperous Turkey, we all have to work together.

AKP’s organisation system was like a very big and deeply connected web: little groups would be linked to communities, communities to professional bodies, and professional bodies to municipalities. This cooperation was consistent and seemingly inevitable. However, this very sophisticated web seems to be dissolving — and the ones who remain outside of the web are looking for new strands to connect to.