Role Reversal: Changing Dynamics of CHP and Good Party

A series of meetings between the leaders of Türkiye’s main political parties have steered the national conversation in recent weeks, creating an opportunity to reinvigorate Turkish politics. Such a reactivation would entail a heated debate on a wide range of issues related to Türkiye’s current state and future.

I have previously noted that I welcome this new period (which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Özgür Özel described as “relaxation” and “normalization” respectively) but nevertheless with cautious optimism approach. The reason for my caution is the difficulty of controlling competition, an essential part of politics, and its tendency to fuel polarization. We also don’t know whether ‘detente’ and ‘normalization’ mean the same thing. In the meantime, the reason for my optimism is that all stakeholders now need a new political environment.

Let us not forget that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) started that debate by unveiling its vision of the “Century of Turkiye” ahead of last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Similarly, the CHP uses the term ‘Türkiye Alliance’ to emphasize its inclusiveness.

Search for a ‘new normal’

In the next four election-less years, it will be necessary to reexamine all discourses, practices and issues in Turkish politics. The government needs to renew itself as the opposition tries to develop new policies in an effort to become a viable alternative. Yet the question of where different political views might meet remains unanswered. For the time being, there are only appointment requests and some inclusive statements on the table. The most important issues are not yet open to negotiation. As such, it remains unknown what the ‘new normal’ in Turkish politics will be. For example, Özel has placed more emphasis on ‘struggle’ (in addition to ‘negotiations’) in his recent statements: ‘A new period has begun in the CHP. This is a time when we will fight hard. curriculum, unemployed teachers and everyone else to a meeting on May 18 – the day before the Youth Festival. We will also hold public events with retirees.

We don’t know where the CHP’s plan to criticize the government at public events will lead or how the government will respond. The fact that the CHP chairman continues to oppose the deployment of the Turkish army in Libya, Iraq and Syria is not a good sign. Likewise, it remains unclear where Özel stands on constitutional reform. He could easily escalate his previous comments – that adhering to the current constitution is a prerequisite for constitutional reform and that the government must implement the rulings of the ECtHR and the Constitutional Court – to stay completely out of the process.

Challenges to come

Another sign that creating a new political environment will be difficult came from Müsavat Dervişoğlu, the recently elected chairman of the Good Party (IP). He remains committed to the movement’s policy of going it alone and has made tougher statements about the government. At the IP’s emergency congress, Dervişoğlu said: “I beg you. For the love of God, I want to confront President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the public squares of Türkiye. Give me that power!”

In a speech to his party’s parliamentary caucus, he announced for the first time that the movement would not participate in attempts to draft a new constitution: “It does not matter who meets whom or who visits whom with regard to constitutional reforms. their goal is to do business. The IP will fight a new “Erdoğan Constitution” to the end – on its own if necessary.

Against the backdrop of all the talk of negotiations and détente, Dervişoğlu’s approach signals a new position, suggesting that the IP is preparing to oppose the government more strongly than the CHP. The question is whether Özel’s new approach limits the space available for the IP’s “third way” politics and encourages Dervişoğlu to turn his sights on the CHP’s hardliners.