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CHP Chair Özel's line challenges new IP's third-way agenda

CHP Chair Özel's line challenges new IP's third-way agenda

The Good Party (IP) held an emergency congress on Sunday to replace its chairperson, Meral Akşener, with Müsavat Dervişoğlu.

The Good Party (IP) held an emergency congress on Sunday to replace its chairperson, Meral Akşener, with Müsavat Dervişoğlu. The movement’s new leader previously served as chairperson of Ülkü Ocakları, a nationalist organization as well as the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) provincial chair in Izmir. He also ran for MHP chairperson in 2012. Having served as deputy chairperson and deputy chairperson of the IP’s parliamentary caucus, Dervişoğlu received the endorsement of his predecessor to lead the movement at a difficult time.
The IP held an emergency congress because it received just 3.76% in the March 31 municipal elections. Hence Akşener’s decision not to seek reelection. Standing on political faultlines, the movement did not benefit from its 2019 and 2023 alliances under its founding chairperson. Ultimately, its decisions to join and leave alliances hurt the IP – just as the other right-wing parties, which once joined forces with the Republican People’s Party (CHP), lost the support of their voters. To make matters worse, the movement helped the CHP connect with center-right voters, making it possible for the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara to win over the IP base despite Akşener’s efforts to prevent it.

IP's struggle: Embracing independence after defeat

Akşener’s decision to learn from the May 2023 election defeat and embrace “free and independent” politics was the final rabbit she could pull from her hat. However, due to her movement’s past alliance with the CHP, it was very difficult for this new policy to win back voters in metropolitan areas. Ultimately, the IP witnessed a significant decline in popular support. At this point, the most important question relates to the road map of Chairperson Dervişoğlu. Türkiye won’t hold elections until 2028, and the IP remains the fifth-largest movement in the Turkish Parliament (with 38 seats) at a time when party politics will be particularly important. In other words, Dervişoğlu will have enough parliamentarians to influence Turkish politics – if he can keep his party together. I do not attach great importance to the following remarks that Dervişoğlu, who is expected to pursue “free and independent” politics, made at the emergency congress in an attempt to win over delegates: “I am begging you. I am pleading with you. I want to settle the score with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan across Türkiye’s public squares. Grant me that power.” After all, there is no way that the new IP chairperson is not already aware of the negligible impact of anti-Erdoğanism. Let us recall that CHP Chairperson Özgür Özel already parted ways with his predecessor’s polarizing approach to promote dialogue and negotiations.
CHP's Özel, a hurdle for IP's third-way goals
I posit that Özel’s brand of politics represents the main obstacle before the IP’s efforts to position itself in the center-right field and promote a third-way alternative under Dervişoğlu. After all, the new CHP chairperson seems keen on occupying the “third-way” space, which criticizes the People’s Alliance and the CHP alike. In other words, he is trying to cover an area that all right-wing parties, starting with the IP, wants to control and reach out to the relevant voter blocs. If Dervişoğlu remains committed to his remarks at Sunday’s congress (whereas Özel has shown due respect to the office of the president), he will find himself in a difficult spot. Indeed, the CHP chairperson’s “third-way” line of criticism over pensioners, young people, and economic challenges might render the Good Party and others ineffective. The IP has lost right-leaning secularists to the CHP. Where and how will the IP position its “third way” exactly? Will it move closer to the People’s Alliance? Or will it strike a harsher tone and claim that CHP cannot effectively oppose the government? The truth is that the Green Left Party (YSP), informally known as the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), a successor of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is more likely to engage in “third-way” politics concerning Kurdish nationalism (notwithstanding the risk of marginalization) than the IP. Still, the IP has a chance as it will recover rapidly against the backdrop of Erdoğan’s meeting with Özel and the ‘new constitution’ debate. It remains to be seen where the CHP chairperson’s new approach will lead. The "new constitution" debate and Türkiye’s imminent counter-PKK operations in Iraq will represent the first test of the new approaches and ambitions of Özel’s CHP, Dervişoğlu’s IP, the DEM Party and the New Welfare Party (YRP). [Daily Sabah, May 2, 2024]