Sad irrelevance

No, Joost Lagendijk, Dutch Europarliamentarian and chairman of the EU Turkey Commission, did not call opposition party CHP ‘a disaster’, nor did he say that ‘European social-democrats are ashamed of the CHP’, a party that has its roots in social democracy. That’s how Turkish media quote him, incorrectly. But his criticism of the CHP was nevertheless harsh. The CHP pays lip service to Turkey’s accession to the European Union, but blocks every reform that brings Turkey closer to the EU. They even oppose changes to the law that would extend freedom of expression, and that, thinks Lagendijk, is unworthy of a party that calls itself social-democrat. There’s quite a row here about Lagendijk’s criticisms. And it’s not the first criticism recently of the CHP and its leader, Deniz Baykal. He has been leading the CHP since 1992, but he has never had any success in elections and even after the most recent election defeat last year, Baykal didn’t step down. In fact gaining strength, he managed to be re-elected recently as party leader. This re-election also earned him a critical piece in The Economist, which referred to ‘the sad irrelevance of Turkey’s main opposition leader’. Columnists in different Turkish newspapers also criticize Baykal and the CHP harshly these days. And the least diplomatic was Bernard Bouwman, Dutch correspondent for NRC Handelsblad, a quality newspaper in the Netherlands, who was interviewed by Today’s Zaman. He said ‘Deniz Baykal acts just like a dictator’. Does all this make the CHP and Baykal reconsider their political strategy? I’m afraid not. And that’s not only bad for politics, because a strong opposition would be welcome here, but it’s also sad for leftist people in Turkey. They have hardly anyone representing them.

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