ISTANBUL – Turkey’s biggest opposition party, the CHP, has a new leader after eighteen years. Kemal Kilicdaroglu was elected chairman with a historic majority on the party’s convention on Saturday. The previous party leader, Deniz Baykal, recently stepped down after a sex scandal.
The CHP congress this weekend in Ankara is already being called the ‘congress of hope’: party supporters hope that the new leader will take the party back to its social democratic roots. The previous leader was criticised a lot because he was uncompromising towards governing party AKP, and because he lost sight of social democratic policies. Under Baykal’s rule, the CHP couldn’t do anything against the AKP: the party lost election after election.
Kilicdaroglu, a Kurd and Alevi, is called by some ‘the Turkish Gandhi’. The nickname is mainly based on his appearance (small, with glasses and somewhat vulnerable) and his image: calm and serene. He can not be judged yet by his actions; the dictatorial structure of (most) Turkish political parties hasn’t yet given Kilicdaroglu a chance to profile himself next to Baykal.
Last year Kilicdaroglu tried in vain to become the mayor of Istanbul.