Türkiye’s pro-opposition circles have launched an excessive public perception campaign for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairperson and presidential candidate. The conservative parties that are part of the “table for six,” the opposition bloc that nominated Kılıçdaroğlu, and pro-CHP media personalities and authors lead that effort. Specifically, they refer to the prominent opposition leader as a mujtahid and draw parallels between him and Mahatma Gandhi to support his claim of being calm, collected, compromising, democratic and inclusive. Their praise for Kılıçdaroğlu comes with accusations against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – whom they see as the complete opposite.
Ironically, Kılıçdaroğlu hurled more insults and made more accusations than any other politician in Türkiye’s recent past. Come to think of it, what has not he called President Erdoğan? The prominent opposition leader appears calm but uses a combative, destructive and threatening rhetoric. Moreover, Kılıçdaroğlu lacks follow through and attaches little importance to coherence.
At the same time, the folks that run Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaign would like to throw “piety” into the mix. Having wrapped up his final address to Parliament with “bismillah,” which means “in the name of Allah,” the prominent opposition leader reportedly attended the Friday prayer. The CHP’s “conservative” partners accuse the People’s Alliance of “exploiting religion” to promote Kılıçdaroğlu as a religious man as part of a campaign reminiscent of Ekrem Imamoğlu’s mayoral campaign in Istanbul.
Specifically, the Future Party (GP) and the Felicity Party (SP) attempt to legitimize Kılıçdaroğlu in the eyes of conservative voters and pledge to defend them against the CHP’s revanchism. The Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) follows in its footsteps with less enthusiasm.
Indeed, GP Chairperson Ahmet Davutoğlu traces back the history of Turkish modernization and the development of political currents to whitewash the “table for six” (and CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu) for conservative and religious voters – in such a way that he is living proof that history may be rewritten depending on one’s circumstances.
At the same time, they have joined the CHP’s ideologues to accuse Türkiye’s pious and conservative voters of “blind obedience,” which is pathological on many different levels. That the same folks, who used to mock “strategic depth,” rely on the SP and the GP to claim that the pious “supported the CHP in the single-party era” highlights the sad story of those who made their peace with speaking their opponent’s language.
Their claim to an unprecedented and historical “social contract” seems naive enough to disregard the lessons of Ottoman constitutionalism.
Moreover, those movements lost touch to such an extent that they would collaborate with the CHP to reject the country’s great transformation under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) altogether. Indeed, they traded their ideal of “finding a third way” – which criticized the government and the opposition alike – for being part of the government and serving in Parliament.
A ‘changed man’
The perception operation intended to persuade voters that Kılıçdaroğlu is a “changed man” aims to win over right-wing voters. It is no secret that more people disliked the prominent opposition leader than any other politician before his endorsement. At this time, it makes perfect sense for him to look for ways to appeal to all social groups. The main problem is that Kılıçdaroğlu did not just go into politics. He has been around for more than two decades, and it is virtually impossible to make the people forget about the CHP’s detachment from the population and history of oppression – which the prominent opposition leader personally acknowledges.
That is why Turkish voters have every right to question whether Kılıçdaroğlu and his party have changed.
Kılıçdaroğlu claims to have “rid himself of all kinds of oppression” today. But, will that be enough, provided that he blocked the headscarf ban’s abolishment by petitioning the Constitutional Court?
Could he guarantee that a fresh wave of CHP oppression will not take away people’s liberties – which President Erdoğan, the AK Party, and conservatives worked very hard to attain?
The CHP chairperson recited the Gülenist Terror Group’s (FETÖ) illegally obtained wiretaps at Parliament in 2013-2016 and smeared court cases regarding the July 15, 2016 coup attempt as a “civilian coup.” Would he be able to stop that organization’s potential comeback?
Since he previously argued that the PKK’s Syrian wing, the YPG, did not pose a threat to Türkiye and may shake hands with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to suspend the Turkish military’s counterterrorism operations, is Kılıçdaroğlu the right man to preserve our country’s territorial integrity?
Will he find the time to show due leadership in the economic arena, regarding post-earthquake relief efforts, or amid the ever-shifting balances of power in the international arena – since the tug-of-war around the “table for six” would consume so much of his time?
The people will not forget how combative and destructive Kılıçdaroğlu has been unless and until the CHP leadership responds forcefully to those questions. Then, they will remember that party’s history of oppression.
In this article
- 14 May 2023 Turkish General Election
- 2023 Turkish General Elections Presidential Candidates
- 2023 Turkish Presidential Election
- Daily Sabah
- Ekrem İmamoğlu
- Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
- Meral Akşener
- People's Protection Units (YPG)
- PKK - YPG - SDF - PYD - YPJ - SDG - HBDH - HPG - KCK - PJAK - TAK - YBŞ
- Table for Six | Turkish Opposition Alliance
- Turkish Opposition
- Turkish President
- Türkiye's 2023 Elections
- Türkiye's Felicity Party (SP)
- Türkiye's Future Party (GP)
- Türkiye's Good Party (IP)
- Türkiye's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)
- Türkiye's Republican People's Party (CHP)
- Türkiye's Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson