After a long debate within Turkey's largest opposition party, CHP parliamentary bloc chairman Ozgur Özal announced his candidacy for the party's presidency at next year's congress, opening the door to the possibility of changing the party's current head and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has faced internal opposition since assuming the presidency of the party in 2010, largely justified by his repeated losses to President Erdoğan and the AKP in all his electoral elections. Later, Kılıçdaroğlu used the same elections to get rid of his biggest critic and most prominent rival within the party, Muharrem Ince, so he nominated him for the presidential elections to lose to Erdogan in 2018, so he withdrew from his hand the "loss to Erdogan" card, and pushed him into a zero-sum battle with him that prompted him to resign and then establish the Balad Party.
The Turkish opposition – led by Kılıçdaroğlu – raised expectations a lot before the recent presidential and parliamentary elections, claiming that it is able to win the presidency of the country, as well as the majority of parliamentary seats to change the political system and return it to the parliamentary system, and Kılıçdaroğlu seemed so confident of winning the presidency that he "bid farewell" to his party's parliamentary bloc before the elections as his "last speech" from that podium as party president.
There is no real and strong competitor to Kılıçdaroğlu in the General Congress other than Özgur Özal, who was considered a supporter of the party president traditionally.
However, the double loss of the presidency and parliament had a price to pay, and most of the arrows went to the leader of the opposition and the head of its largest party, of course, especially since there were those in his party who were not satisfied with his alliances, and among the parties allied with him there were those who did not want to run for president or later allied with the far-right victory party and adopted an anti-refugee discourse.
Internal opposition and external criticism
Kılıçdaroğlu was therefore met with sharp criticism from the other five parties in the opposition six-party table, foremost among them the Good Party, which publicly objected to being the opposition's consensus candidate because it was "not the candidate capable of winning" the presidential election, but the most prominent opposition the man faced was within his own party.
The man's opponents abounded among the leaders of his party, led by the mayor of Greater Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, who wanted to run for president before the head of his party imposed his candidacy with his powers and powers. Behind Imamoglu were a number of former and current leaders, some of whom demanded "renewal" and others more clearly and directly called for "change" in the party's presidency. For a short time, it was thought that Imamoglu would run against Kılıçdaroğlu at the next general congress of the party, but he recently announced his intention to run again for the mayorship of Istanbul, praising the head of the party's parliamentary bloc, Ozgur Özal, which suggested the possibility of the latter's candidacy for the competition, which it was.
Kılıçdaroğlu rejected demands for the resignation, comparing himself to a captain who should not stop before he gets the ship to safety, but stressed the need for a change in the party's leadership, changing most of the members of its central committee, especially Imamoglu's supporters, which increased the number of opponents and demands for his resignation.
Legally, the movement demanding change could not force the head of the party to resign, but rather aimed to increase pressure on him to provide it voluntarily. Kılıçdaroğlu's steadfastness has therefore postponed the resolution of this battle until the party's general congress, which is expected to be held next month or the next.
So far, there is no real strong rival to Kılıçdaroğlu at the General Congress other than Özgür Özal, who was a traditional supporter of the party president and was against demands for his resignation immediately after the elections, before joining Imamoglu with little differentiation in his speech, as he focused on the idea of renewal in the party, not necessarily a change of leadership.
Because the choice of the head of the party falls on the shoulders of the members of the General Conference, most of whom come from the organization of the party and its branches in various governorates and cities, there is great importance to follow up the results of the sub-conferences in the neighborhoods of cities, and then at the level of the governorates, which have not yet ended, but most of what has been done - which is very few - indicates the predominance of the current supporting the head of the party as expected, but it was also full of a great state of controversy and polarization that turned into confrontations and fights sometimes.
Political calculations push for Kılıçdaroğlu to be satisfied with reaching the General Conference and claiming his keenness on change and renewal and supervising it himself
Therefore, in the absence of another strong candidate capable of real competition, the CHP in the next congress faces one of four scenarios:
- The first is that there should be an implicit understanding or an unannounced deal between Kılıçdaroğlu and the current opposing him, so that the latter reaches the party to the General Congress and does not run, but supports Ozal, and then has guaranteed an honorable exit from the presidency of the party (without resignation), and secured the victory of the movement demanding change, especially since Özal was until recently his right arm, and therefore he chose him to head the party's parliamentary bloc.
- The second scenario is that Ozal's candidacy is real, and a bone-breaking battle takes place in the next congress, and then, regardless of political calculations, the chances of defeating Kılıçdaroğlu are not great, as the man makes the presidency of the party's branches throughout the country and its breadth on his eye, that is, he now chooses who are supposed to elect the head of the party tomorrow, which makes Özal's task in this case possible but very difficult.
- The third scenario is that the competition in the party's general congress is real and Kılıçdaroğlu contests and wins, which is somewhat more likely than the previous one mathematically and electorally, but may not be politically likely. The political obstacle here is the loss of the last elections, which included a long series of defeats, the age of the party's president at the age of 75, the promises he made to change and empower the youth, and so on.
- Thus, this raises the possibility of the fourth scenario, which is that Kılıçdaroğlu does not run at the General Conference, but rather supports a figure from his pro-current – not Ozgur Özal – for the presidency and ensures her victory.
In summary, political calculations push for Kılıçdaroğlu to be content with reaching the General Conference and claiming his keenness on change and renewal and supervising it himself, which favors the first scenario in the event of a deal or the fourth in the event of its absence. As for the expectation according to purely electoral and administrative calculations, the third scenario favors the current party, as the current party president is expected to be more present than his rivals among the members of the General Conference. The second scenario, i.e. a zero-sum battle between the two sides and Ozal's victory in the presidency, would be a surprise according to both political and electoral calculations.
The most likely scenario
The burning question, therefore, becomes: which scenarios are more fortunate than the rest? And who will be the next president of the Republican People's Party and the opposition in Turkey in general?
It is not easy to answer this question accurately now, as there are no clear indications so far about whether a deal will take place, especially since Özal announced his candidacy against Kılıçdaroğlu only a few days ago, and Kılıçdaroğlu made only a brief comment that "any member of the party has the right to run for his presidency." Therefore, it will be to rely on monitoring reactions and between the lines of statements in the next few weeks to try to outweigh one scenario over the other three.
However, according to the current data, it can be said that the scenario of the deal is very likely and relatively more likely than others, given the course of events since the last elections, the name of the rival candidate for Kılıçdaroğlu, his well-known proximity to the latter, being closer to the traditional current in the party, and the aforementioned political considerations. But, who knows?!