Παρασκευή, 28 Μαΐου 2010
MAY 26, 2010.
Turkey Gets a Real Opposition
I spent this weekend in a packed, airless convention hall in
Ankara as 's leading opposition party, the left-wing Republican People's Party (CHP), elected Kemal Kilicdaroglu as its new leader. They call him Gandhi—"Gandhi Kemal." Turkey
No one would have guessed a month ago that the beleaguered fortunes of
's secular opposition would abruptly change with the appearance on the Internet of a sex video, forcing the resignation of the party's two-decade ruler, Deniz Baykal. Under Mr. Baykal, the CHP was dogmatic, elitist and, stuck at 20-something percent of the vote—hardly a real alternative to the Islamic-rooted AK Party's (AKP) grasp on power. Turkey
Mr. Kilicdaroglu's election marks the beginning of a new era in Turkish politics. Having to face off a charismatic Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and a significant conservative vote in elections next year, he may never make it to the top job. But he heralds a more credible opposition to the AKP, which has been leading the country unchallenged since 2002 and dominates the presidency and the parliament—with a firm hand over the business world, the media, and parts of the judiciary.
There are different stories about how Kemal Kilicdaroglu got his nickname. There are, of course, his round glasses and his unusually skinny frame. The title also refers to Mr. Kilicdaroglu's quiet manner—uncharacteristically civilized for our screaming political culture. And then there is his modest home. He is a bureaucrat-turned-politician who made a name for himself by unearthing major corruption cases.
But sometime around local elections last year, when his anticorruption, antipoverty message got record votes for CHP in
, people started calling him Gandhi. "Gandhi has started his march" declared one newspaper headline. He lost the municipal elections by a small margin but eventually won the party. Istanbul
Mr. Kilicdaroglu's speech at the convention this weekend was far too socialistic for my taste. He spoke of reaching out to the poor, the jobless, the workers, the miners, the pensioners and the farmers. All of which is welcome, except Mr. Kilicdaroglu offered no tangible policy advice but slogans like "We will earn together and distribute equally." He made no reference to free markets, and he also left out of his speech bankers, doctors, professionals, business owners, exporters, tourism, finance and the service industries. There was no reference to the global economic crisis but plenty of resentment of the rich. "We will not live in villas with swimming pools," he said, alluding to the conspicuous enrichment of conservative AKP cadres.
Turkey is the world's 16th largest economy, with a dynamic work force and entrepreneurial spirit. Mr. Kilicdaroglu showed no sign that he is ready to manage its development. His desire to expand government is worrisome for a country on the edge of a continent now paying the price for just that.
Still, by talking about corruption and unemployment—instead of CHP's staple topics like headscarves and the erosion of secularism—Mr. Kilicdaroglu is already better than his predecessor. A Kurd from a modest Anatolian background, he is a staunch secularist. But the CHP's mantra of "protecting the secular republic" has long alienated the majority of Turkish voters who want something other than the preservation of an elitist status quo.
Mr. Kilicdaroglu should take his campaign beyond economic inequality and pledge to expand freedoms in a country hesitating between a Western-style democracy and an illiberal, Russian-style one. He needs to be active on the Kurdish issue and assuage fears that
is slipping away from the West. The AKP came to power with the promise to modernize the archaic, Ataturk-inspired state and expand individual rights. While it did wonders in its first term, since 2007 its reign has been tainted by repressive tactics against the secular media, an effort to control the judiciary, excessive use of wiretapping by law enforcement, and a legal jihad against members of the armed forces in "coup" investigations where the lines between fact and fiction often seem blurry. Turkey
All of that will likely be on the national agenda now with a more vigorous opposition and a real debate about what matters to most Turks. Mr. Kilicdaroglu may or may not be able to break AKP's hold on power, but he could do wonders for Turkish democracy by bringing a sense of balance and accountability. Faced with a more popular foe, the government may have to temper its worst tendencies.
Ms. Aydintasbas is a columnist at the Turkish daily Milliyet.
Αναρτήθηκε από SOT SOT στις 5/28/2010 12:45:00 μ.μ.