Turkic justice congress: a new opposition

turkish justice congress: a new opposition

Screenshou from CHP-YouTube-Video

The Turkish opposition held a congress that was non-partisan and focused on the core problems of the state – and presented the results

There was one dominant theme in the pro-government Turkish press last week: the undershirt of opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP). Whole evenings of talk shows were devoted to the question of whether it was proper to appear in public in this way. The background: During the Justice March a few weeks ago, Kilicdaroglu loved to be photographed with his daughter at the breakfast table – wearing an undershirt. There was hardly a commentator who did not laugh at the play on words adalet (justice) – atlet (undershirt).

Even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intervened, saying that Ataturk had never appeared in public like this. This is a "Insulting the burgers". Kilicdaroglu loved him up and commented: "I say justice, he says undershirt…"

But the permanent attacks on the CHP leader have more weighty reasons than undershirts: Kilicdaroglu has been gaining increasing momentum since the conclusion of the Justice March, which was attended by more than a million people. After many years in which he was hardly taken seriously even by his party colleagues and the CHP was already threatening to sink into insignificance, he is transforming himself into a quick-witted politician who wants to take the country’s problems in hand and reform the opposition. To this end, he held a justice congress from Saturday to Tuesday in the symbolic Canakkale.

The battle of symbols is currently tilting in favor of the CHP

The congress, like the march, should be seen as non-partisan. In workshops and lectures, therefore, not only politicians but also artists, writers and citizens had their say. party symbols were forbidden. Among the participants were CHP and HDP politicians as well as AKP and MHP dropouts. The radical right-wing MHP is currently suffering from a rapid decline in membership. Former Interior Minister Meral Aksener to Found New Party in October.

The fact that Kilicdaroglu is also in this context emphatically close to the burghers and clearly distances himself from the pomp and waste of Erdogan’s huge presidential palace and its elaborate stagings was allowed to earn him further sympathy. Because the exploitation of the country, the corruption, the weakening economy do not fit so well with a president who for years sold himself as a representative of the little people in distinction to the well-off bourgeoisie, from which the majority of the Kemalists were always recruited. The battle of symbols is currently tilting in favor of the CHP.

Kilicdaroglu’s thesis for the congress was that there is no longer any justice or independent democratic bodies in the country, and that there needs to be an open debate on how to change this. At the same time, Erdogan demonstrated how right his competitor is to. In new Prasidial decrees more than 900 civil servants and academics were dismissed and several media were banned, among them the feminist-Kurdish newspaper Gazete Sujin. 3000 convicted criminals were released from overcrowded prisons to make room for the opposition. In August alone, there have been nearly 2000 arrests and almost 1000 detentions so far.

At the same time Erdogan made sure that the MIT secret service is under his personal control and that he has the final say in possible prisoner exchanges. This can be interpreted as further confirmation that Deniz Yucel, Mesale Tolu, Peter Steudtner and many others are hostages of the AKP regime.

Since the AKP could not oppose the content of the congress, it used the usual attacks: The participants were foreign agents or paid by foreign countries, they wanted to harm Turkey; a provincial governor stylized a group of dancing and alcohol-drinking participants as a scandal. While Kilicdaroglu has strong arguments and has been able to gather people from all political directions in Canakkale for peaceful debates, the government is visibly running out of arguments.

The beginning of a new, cross-party movement

At the final rally, Kilicdaroglu said that this was the beginning of a new movement based not on differences but on common ground. One must not despair in the face of a one-man regime, but must actively work for improvements. "Democracy, justice and peace" are to be the cornerstones of the new movement. But it did not stop at generalities. The conference identified concrete problem areas that need to be addressed together. Among them are the state, free elections, freedom of the media, freedom of religion, a free judiciary, economy, education and the daily life of the citizens, in which the AKP had interfered more and more, causing discontent even among its own supporters.

Kilicdaroglu also called for the immediate release of imprisoned members of parliament and journalists, the lifting of the state of emergency that has lasted for over a year, and the restoration of the separation of powers. He described the last elections and the constitutional referendum as unfree and not legitimate.

Congress and upcoming party relaunch by MHP dropouts mark a turning point in Turkish politics. Perhaps the most important innovation is non-partisanship. Slowly but surely, the opposition seems to be realizing that the first thing to do is to counteract the division of society and find common denominators if they want to oppose Erdogan. One thing seems certain at this point: the head of government will not have an easy time trying to drive a wedge into this new movement. An arrest of Kilicdaroglu at the present time could trigger massive protests.

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