Turkey's left looks for new leader as Baykal still defiant

CHP leader Deniz Baykal broke his silence at a press conference in Ankara two days after the elections.

Turkey's left looks for new leader as Baykal still defiant

Following his party's political disappointment on Sunday, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal finally spoke to the press on Tuesday and said he had no intention of resigning.

CHP leader Deniz Baykal broke his silence at a press conference in Ankara two days after the elections.

"I see no situation that requires such action," a defiant Baykal told reporters in his first public appearance since Sunday's vote in which his arch rival, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won a resounding victory. "I have not observed any such demand in our grassroots," he said, playing down the protests of scores of CHP supporters outside the party headquarters who called for his resignation immediately after the results emerged on Sunday night.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) took 46.4 percent of the vote to win a second five-year term, increasing its support at the 2002 elections by 12 points. The CHP, whose election campaign was based on accusations that the AK Party is a threat to Turkey's secular order, finished second with 20.8 percent of the vote -- only about 1 percentage point higher than in 2002.

Sources said Baykal's decision was reached after consulting with Süleyman Demirel, Turkey's ninth president and a political warhorse who is also the founder of the now-dissolved True Path Party (DYP). Despite Baykal's defiant stance, his political rivals on the left, Hikmet Çetin and Mustafa Sarıgül, have already taken action, hoping to find a new leader that would take Turkey's left to new heights.

Sarıgül, mayor of İstanbul's Şişli district, and Çetin, a former parliament speaker, got together in an office located on Ankara's İran Street along with other faces from the CHP's Baykal opposition, apparently to join forces to overthrow the party's tenacious leader.

Baykal said in his press statement that he did not interpret the AK Party's landslide victory as a blunder for his party. Baykal claimed the CHP had increased its votes by 1.5 percent and earned itself 1.2 million new supporters.

"I congratulate the AK Party on the election results. I wish the best of luck to the AK Party. I greet our nation's decision with respect. The CHP has left behind an active work period, at times thwarting attempts to undermine the republic. The CHP undertook this with success. In a sense, the CHP is the political insurance of our system. We will need the work of the CHP even more in the period ahead. These results are certainly not satisfactory for us. No election results can change the fact that Turkey's regime is under threat. This threat will remain in place. We will do our duty against this. It is impossible for the election results to change our assumptions," he said. Baykal also claimed that those calling for his resignation had no relation to the CHP.

No regrets about helping Erdoğan become prime minister

Recalling his support for a law that abolished a ban keeping AK Party leader Erdoğan from involvement in active politics, Baykal said he had no regrets. "I believed that the AK Party leader had to earn his political rights back after the 2002 elections as part of my understanding of democracy. I fought for this in a very determined way. There can be no democracy that applies a personal embargo on the leader of a party. I gave my support on this subject with no second thoughts. I am proud of this. I have absolutely no regrets."

He also said that those claiming that he had assumed back in 2002 that Erdoğan would not be able to endure the difficulties he faced as a prime minister for more than two months were lying. "I never thought that way; I defended his right believing that he should have it. I never assumed that the party would disassemble within two months. Neither have I ever uttered such a word."

Zülfü Livaneli, a columnist for Vatan daily and a former parliamentary deputy claimed in his column that in 2002, when Deniz Baykal threw in his support for a constitutional amendment that would lift a political ban on Erdoğan and return him to politics, he hoped that Erdoğan would "not be able to stand for even two months."

During his speech, Baykal also admitted that the military's declaration on April 27 had worked to boost the votes of the AK Party. The declaration threatened the AK Party government with military intervention if it continued to insist on its presidential nominee, Abdullah Gül, eyed suspiciously by Turkey's secularist elite since his wife wears a headscarf.

The CHP leader also denied that the CHP's principles played a role in the election results. "We have no suspicious concerning the principles and targets of our party. We will study whether we need to make adjustments in line with the conditions of the day. The CHP might need restructuring. We will ask our local organizations to prepare reports about this. We will continue our search to shape our policies on the basis of the day."

On the presidential elections, he reiterated that the best way to appoint a nominee would be through reaching consensus.

Baykal opposition has big plans

A meeting of the CHP's intra-party opposition, led by Çetin and Sarıgül, both formerly influential members of the CHP, saw the participation on Tuesday of Onur Kumbaracıbaşı, Celal Doğan, Mehmet Tomanbay, Hasan Aydın, İsmail Değerli and Mehmet Moğultay. Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) leader Murat Karayalçın and Fikri Sağlar, a former culture minister who made his political career in the CHP and the SHP, are expected to join the movement to overthrow Baykal.

Meanwhile, speaking to press members on Tuesday, Çetin, who leads the search for a new leader and solidarity on the left, called on Baykal to resign. "The greatest service the current administration could do both to the CHP and to Turkey would be to quit politics altogether," Çetin said.

"He does not have the right to make Atatürk's party go through this," Çetin continued. "This party is not the private property of anyone. The fundamental purpose of the current administration is not to come to power, but rather to stay in power inside the party. They have not been able to come to power in the entire country, nor will they ever succeed in this. Mr. Baykal and his friends should … give up. A party that once founded Turkey has turned into a regional party. A party that cannot embrace the entire country can never come to power.

"On July 22 no left-wing parties entered the elections, offering the CHP a rare opportunity. There were mass rallies. All these were positive for the CHP. Those who say increasing the party's votes by 1 percent despite all these favorable circumstances was success are being extremely unfair to the CHP and to the nation. This administration should not only be quitting the CHP but [leaving] politics altogether. This would open the path of the party and also of Turkey."

DSP to walk out

The Democratic Left Party (DSP), which agreed to an election alliance with the CHP in return for 13 seats in Parliament, has also changed its plans for a period of CHP support in Parliament. The party is now planning to leave the CHP earlier than planned in order to stay out of the settling of accounts on the left. DSP leader Zeki Sezer, who talked to his deputies on Tuesday, said that they would prefer not to become a side in the struggle against Baykal. Sezer also made a statement on the election in remarks broadcast on NTV. "The left is experiencing the results of dismissing our remarks when we talked about secularism that is respectful of beliefs," he said.

Meanwhile, SHP leader Murat Karayalçın said, "The AK Party victory was not won because of that party's successful deeds, but due to mistakes of the opposition party."

"In this election, there was no left option that would expand personal freedoms, increase production and employment at the same time and that promised to improve inequalities in income distribution. The loser of the election was the CHP-DSP alliance that appeared before the electorate with a right-wing mentality and a right-wing party program." Karayalçın said Baykal was simply being spineless when he claimed that he "increased his party's votes."

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Temmuz 2007, 13:52