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As a nation navel-gazes, what’s next for post-referendum Turkey?

September 16, 2010

This Sunday was big for Turkey. As you know, the national basketball team played the US in the final game of the World Basketball Championship in Istanbul. It was the best a Turkish sports team has done in international sporting competitions, ever. Silver medalists in the WBC, well done Turkey.

Oh, and there was a referendum. How about that. The result was as most pollsters expected, a win for the constitutional reform but not quite the mandate that the AKP was hoping for (pre-election, pundits had put the AKP’s magic number at 60 percent; the referendum passed at 58, just barely short).

Sunday, the big news until the results came out, and a bit after as well, was not the election itself but rather the failure of Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the CHP, to vote after an error in his voter registration surfaced. I’m sure that will be the subject of long, protracted debate and conspiracy Turkey-side. I think the most damaging part of the Kılıçdaroğlu sideshow was his and the CHP’s failure to publicly address or respond to the situation until after the end of the basketball final.

I was pleased to see Kılıçdaroğlu’s post-basketball speech did not include his resignation (I think he has the potential to make some needed changes in the CHP, but hadn’t been able to earlier because he’d only just taken his position and then turned wholeheartedly to the referendum campaigning), but as we found out earlier today the CHP is planning what could be a significant reorganization or introspection and infrastructure realignment. It’s starting with Gürsel Tekin’s elevation to CHP deputy chairman – Tekin is an influential party official and a key Kılıçdaroğlu supporter. At the time of the party’s May congress, Tekin was the CHP Istanbul provincial branch head, and had played a central role in a brief power struggle between his faction and CHP Secretary-General Önder Sav when he submitted an alternative list of candidates for the party’s top administrative posts. Tekin withdrew his list, but the two sides clashed again in August, when Tekin was named to the party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) – reports at the time said that Kılıçdaroğlu actually wanted him to be a deputy chair. And now he is. Önder Sav was Baykal’s “friend and political comrade of 53 years,” as Today’s Zaman noted in May – he was also a key player in bringing Kılıçdaroğlu in, and at the time it was reported that he had made that deal in exchange for remaining the party’s number-two man, but it now appears that his faction is losing support in the CHP internally.

Part of the shakeup announced with Tekin’s new post will also be fresh new party members taking leadership positions in the party’s district and provincial branches. Both the CHP and the MHP have long suffered from the image that their echelons are littered with the hidebound old guard; just the idea of new blood and fresh ideas could go a long way for the CHP.

The CHP needs something drastic, because while the AK Party didn’t get the election blowout they’d hoped for, 58 percent is a formidable number to face when getting ready for parliamentary elections in just 10 months or less, especially with one’s main opponents potentially in a position to wield more state power through the approved constitutional reforms.

The other post-referendum political news to arise almost immediately is the specter of a move to a presidential democracy rather than Turkey’s present parliamentary democracy. This deserves a post of its own, but until that post makes it to this website, I recommend checking out Aengus Collins’ brief but interesting post on institutional democracies and HDN’s initial article for some very needed background.

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