Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on July 28 penned a letter for Gazete Oksijen on what he means by change within his party.
His letter came one day after he said society demands a change of the CHP’s leadership and management.
In the detailed letter, İmamoğlu said the current structures of political parties “do not meet the needs of Turkey.”
“There have been intense debates on the Law on Political Parties for years, but unfortunately the party elites do not change their organizational model. Today, parties have turned into exclusionary structures that are closed to society, where the personal preferences of the leader and a small group of people around them are effective. Political parties are shrinking,” the 52-year-old mayor said.
İmamoğlu said the reason for this situation of the parties cannot only be explained by party structures and elites, and added that the political regime is also effective. “The polarization created by the current regime in Turkey to maintain itself has taken the parties captive. Parties are stuck in imaginary sociologies and identity politics. It is a must to overcome identity politics by democratizing the Law on Political Parties on the one hand and opening channels of democracy within the party on the other.”
The mayor said the construction of a new and democratic political life is possible once the CHP radically renews itself and responds to the needs of the coming period. “In the light of its founding principles, the CHP has the historical background, ideological equipment and human resources to create a new organizational structure, in which it establishes strong ties with both organized and unorganized segments of the society by prioritizing labor.”
He also said the party also needs to continue the alliance policy of the 2019 local elections. “The Istanbul Alliance, which we built in the 2019 local elections, was a model of unity beyond party politics. As the stakeholders of the Istanbul Alliance, especially the youth and women, we walked together, discussed and determined our priorities and preferences together. In the coming period, we need to carry the cross-party alliances formed locally to the national level and transform the local alliances into the Turkish Alliance.”
He also said “brave democracy” requires “brave leadership.”
“Turkey has had major issues for more than a century that prevent us from properly establishing social peace. Today, it is a must for the political leaders who aspire to govern our country at different levels, first of all to act boldly to solve the problems of our citizens and segments of society who feel excluded. The democratic leadership meticulously builds the ground necessary to heal the open wounds of the country, especially the Kurdish and Alevi problem. They do not hesitate to take risks,” the mayor noted.
İmamoğlu also defined how a democratic leader should act and said "The democratic leader should be a person who is accountable, transparent, can be monitored and audited by the society. The democratic leader adheres to the principles of their party, but is not partisan. The democratic leader has no right to treat their country, municipality or party they lead as their own property."
“The democratic leader uses the authority given to them for a certain period of time in accordance with the contract they signed with the society, knows how to leave the task when they cannot fulfill the mission given to them and falls behind the social expectations,” he added in a possible reference to CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu.
İmamoğlu 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. Earlier in July, İmamoğlu chaired a Zoom meeting of CHP officials which drew the ire of his party’s management.