Socialist International vs. Turkey’s CHP

It was not too long before Turkey’s main opposition party leader, with a condescending attitude, called on the embattled Greek prime minister, whose country had plunged into financial crisis, and said, “Hold on Georgios, we are coming to power to rescue you.”

Only a month ago during the election campaign, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the chairman of Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has been in perennial opposition in Turkey’s political history, made fun of Georgios Papandreou in an election campaign. Not only that, he would have also saved the Turkish people from what he described as the “Stockholm syndrome” of voters who voted overwhelmingly for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). He later called this blunder a ‘joke’ and may argue the same about his remarks about Papandreou when asked.

Unfortunately for the CHP, the election results turned out to be the other way around. Kilicdaroglu’s CHP experienced election failure after the ruling party swept a record 50 percent of the vote, and many with his party are now rebelling against him. To size up his position against his challengers, Kılıçdaroğlu went to Athens on Thursday to beg support from Papandreou, who leads the Socialist International (SI), an umbrella organization that brings together the social democrat, labor and democratic socialist political parties of the world under one roof. It is a funny world, and I guess this is yet more proof that “what goes around comes around.”

I am just not sure Papandreou, who is a gentle politician, would reciprocate in the same condescending manner. That aside, the CHP is facing much more significant challenges in the SI as a full member. Many observers here in Turkey and abroad as well agree that the CHP has simply lost touch with the values of the SI and has become a party advocating the rights of oppressors against the oppressed in Turkey. It has sided with the military, which threatened to oust the democratically elected government in Turkey, and has defended deep state gangs that have wreaked havoc on Turkey’s Kurds, pious Muslims and non-Muslim minorities, including plots to kill and intimidate leaders of these groups in Turkey.

Last year, the CHP opposed the trial of generals involved in the Sept. 12 military coup plot, an armed intervention that severely affected the left in Turkey with party closures, arrests and the torture of thousands of leftist activists. The constitutional changes that allowed the trial of the generals who perpetrated these inhumane acts were opposed by the CHP in a public referendum. Therefore, Stockholm syndrome suits the CHP more than any other party in Turkey. In the end, people voted for the constitutional changes on fundamental freedoms, defying the CHP’s “vote no” campaign.

That is not the only sin the CHP has committed in a major breach of the values of the SI. The party is strongly opposed to the Ergenekon trial in Turkey, which was regarded as “the opportunity for further democratization” by the EU and a way to get rid of deep state gangs and illegal criminal networks. According to prosecutors’ indictments and evidence accepted by the İstanbul courts, this terrorist organization had even plotted to kill Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. The plan was part of the Cage Operation Action Plan, a subversive plot allegedly devised by military officers that sought to weaken the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government by assassinating non-Muslims and through other acts of terror.

Cage plan documents specifically refer to the killings of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Catholic priest Father Andrea Santoro and three Christians in Malatya as an “operation.” The case was merged with the Ergenekon trial in May. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu shocked many in Turkey when he said in February that he would become a member of Ergenekon, in a statement made in defense of suspects who were being held in Silivri Prison.

The suspects include former military officers as well as some currently on active duty and also civilians, including journalists, bureaucrats and even university rectors and professors.

In fact, the CHP leader went further. When CHP Deputy Chairman Süheyl Batum, an ardent defender of Ergenekon suspects, proposed nominating Ergenekon defendants to get them out of jail, Kılıçdaroğlu initially denied the claims about their nomination. Later, he backpedaled and nominated them. There are four Ergenekon suspects who were nominated by the CHP and who were elected on the CHP ticket. Two of the deputies are still in detention pending trial. When Kılıçdaroğlu was asked what the CHP’s response would be if the court rejected their deputies’ request for release, he said, “We will respect the decisions of the court.”

Despite this statement, he decided to boycott Parliament this week and instructed his 135 deputies to shun the swearing-in ceremony to protest the court decision to bar the deputies’ release. The move, a first in CHP history, was the strongest support yet lent by a leftist party to the ultranationalist, hardcore militarist Ergenekon terror network. I think that topped the list of sins the CHP has committed to qualify for suspension of membership in the SI, whose core values were subjected to a mockery by one of its members, the CHP, in Turkey.

Just a week before the June 12 elections, I remember how Hannes Swoboda, the vice chairman of the second strongest group in the European Parliament, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and a veteran European politician dealing with Turkey for years, reacted to the nomination of Ergenekon suspects by the CHP. Swoboda, who declared the Ergenekon investigation “an absolute must” to uncover what he called “the cancerous part of the military and the deep state,” told the new CHP leader, “You were not elected to be voice of terrorist organization.”

In the past, because of nationalist/militarist advocacy, the CHP was subjected to heavy criticism from liberal and libertarian socialist interest groups within the SI. Some even called for the membership of the CHP to be suspended. The hope that the CHP’s commitments would be renewed and brought in line with SI values under Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership has quickly faded as the CHP has moved even further to the right under his watch.

It was not surprising at all that in May during a speech in Germany Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan disclosed that his party had been asked to join the SI after the European socialists were frustrated with the CHP’s record of deviating from its socialist democrat credentials. He said:

“Is there a single person who understands where the main opposition party is in the political arena? Are they on the right? No. Can you say they are on the left? No. They have nothing to do with social democracy. We are being invited to join the SI. Believe me, I have told them in response that we can join the SI if they expel the CHP. They [the CHP] have nothing to do with social democracy.”

Many diplomats in Ankara agree that the AK Party is more of a social democrat party when one looks at the social, political and economic policies the party has pursued over the eight-and-a-half years of its rule in Turkey.

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