Republican People's Party (Turkey): Wikis


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Republican People's Party
Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi
Leader Deniz Baykal
Founded September 9, 1923 (1923-09-09)
Headquarters Anadolu Bulvarı 12, Söğütözü, Ankara
Ideology Kemalist ideology, social democracy
International affiliation Socialist International
European affiliation Party of European Socialists (associate member)
Official colours Red and white
Politics of Turkey
Political parties

The Republican People's Party (RPP) (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP)) is the oldest political party in the Republic of Turkey and is the main party of the Centre-left. The party was established during the Congress of Sivas as a union of resistance groups against the invasion of Anatolia. The union represented Turkish people as a unified front during the Turkish War of Independence. On September 9, 1923, "People's Party" officially declared itself as a political organization and on October 29, 1923, announced the establishment of the Turkish Republic. On November 10, 1924, the People's Party renamed itself to "Republican People's Party" (CHP) as Turkey was moving into single-party period.

During the single-party period, CHP became the major political organization of single-party state. However, CHP faced two opposition parties during this period. The first one was the Progressive Republican Party established in 1924 by some famous generals such as Kazım Karabekir and Ali Fuat Cebesoy of the Turkish War of Independence and the second one was the Liberal Republican Party founded by Ali Fethi Okyar in 1930, both of which, however, were banned within a few months of their establishment by the "single-party state". This experience was followed by the National Development Party founded by Nuri Demirağ, in 1945.

The current (or modern) structure of the party was established with the transition to multi-party period. After World War II, with the title Millî Şef("National Chief"), Gen. İsmet İnönü, who was in lead of CHP, has introduced democratic elections to the Turkish society. Consequent reforms enabling further democratization can also be interpreted as a response to the Soviet threat since the Soviet Union was about to get permission from the former allies to invade the Eastern part of Turkey and to limit Turkish sovereignty over her straits. It was a smart move for İsmet İnönü to side with the Western pact to preserve national sovereignty for a while, but in the meantime his party lost the first truly-democratic elections (the second general elections after 1946) of the republican era, held in 1950, and he left his seat to his old companion, Celal Bayar.

During the interim "multi-party periods" in between the military coups of 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997, CHP is regarded as being social-democratic (member of the Socialist International),[1] state nationalistic and secular/laicist. The party's logo consists of the Six Arrows, which represent the foundational principles of Kemalist Ideology: republicanism, nationalism, statism, populism, laicité, and revolutionism.

CHP, along with all other political parties of the time, was closed down for a brief period by the military coup of 1980. An inheritor party which still participates in Turkish democratic life, was established in 1984, as Democratic Left Party by the former leader of CHP, Bülent Ecevit. CHP was finally reestablished with its original name in September 9, 1992, with the participation of a majority of its previous members of the pre-1980 period.


Current position

Party's performance at the 2007 general election by constituency.

Republican People's Party is currently a center-leftist political party with traditional ties to middle and upper-middle classes such as white-collar workers, retired generals, government bureaucrats, academicians, college students, left-leaning intellectuals and labor unions such as DİSK, and well-to-do entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, the loose relationship between CHP and some labor unions, business chambers and most non-governmental organizations alienated significant support from CHP. The distance between party administration and many leftist grassroots, especially left oriented Kurdish voters, contributes the shift of CHP from political left to an authoritarian base.

Despite heavy criticism from liberal and libertarian socialist interest groups, CHP still holds a significant position in the Socialist International as well as being an associate member of the Party of European Socialists. CHP urged the Socialist International to accept Republican Turkish Party of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an observer member.

At the 2007 general election CHP ran in alliance with Democratic Left Party. CHP suffered a heavy defeat, getting 7,300,234 votes (20.85% of the total). CHP, YTP, and DSP combined got 21.77% of the votes back in 2002. The party could become first only in three provinces in Thrace (Edirne, Tekirdağ, Kırklareli) and two provinces on the Aegean coast (İzmir, Muğla). With these results, 112 candidates (13 of these MPs are DSP affiliates) were elected to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey from the CHP electoral sheet compared to 178 in 2002.

CHP increased its vote share from 20.9% to 23.1% in the 2009 municipal elections. The party gained considerable ground by winning Antalya, Giresun, Zonguldak, Sinop, Tekirdag, Aydin despite losing Trabzon municipality. The party received in 20 provinces of Turkey less than 3% of the votes. [2]


Single-party period

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

During the War of Independence, 1919-1922, the parliament in Ankara was composed by different types of deputies. To have a harmony among his followers, Mustafa Kemal and his colleagues formed Müdafaa-ı Hukuk grubu (the group of Defence of the Law). The opposition to Mustafa Kemal or to the commissars elected by the parliament has united under the name of second group of Defence of the Law, simply second group (so the Mustafa Kemal followers were later called as first group). Although second group has always been minority, it could create active opposition within the parliament. In January 1923, Mustafa Kemal Pasha announced that first group would be transformed to a Party named Halk Fırkası (People's Party). In May 1923, the parliament called a bill for new elections, most probably, because Mustafa Kemal and his colleagues wanted to guarantee the peace treaty's, held in Lausanne, approval by more unanimous parliament. The People's Party was officially founded only after the 1923 elections. The 1923 elections were definitely the victory of forthcoming Party, because of the its leaders reputation after the military victory of the War of Independence and it was the liquidation of second group. Thanks to this unanimity of this second parliament, the republic was proclaimed, the Treaty of Lausanne was accepted and Caliphate was abolished.

However, in 1924, after the short-period of a single-party rule, many of Mustafa Kemal's ex-colleagues, for many reasons (many of them was offended because they were losing power, or their opposition to the short-period of a single-party rule's revolutionary activities, etc...) Rauf Orbay, Kâzım Karabekir, Ali Fuat Cebesoy and many others founded an opposition party called Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası (Progressive Republicans Party). After the foundation of an opposition party, People's Party changed his name to "Republican People's Party". The life of Progressive Republicans Party was short. In 1925 Sheikh Said rebellion was sparked in the east of Turkey. The party was closing down because of the martial law, Takrir-i Sukun and all the prominent members were sent before the Independence Courts, but none of them was found guilty and all of them was release. Even this event was enough to dismiss the prominent members of opposition party. From that period 1925 till 1946 was the a single-party rule, with a short break of Serbest Fırka (Liberal Party) which was actually found by Atatürk, himself and its leader was one of his closest friends Ali Fethi Okyar. Unfortunately, this party was closed down by its founders, shortly after the İzmir meeting which was a huge demonstration against Republican People's Party. In the period of 1925-1930, Republican People's Party introduced the reforms transforming Turkey to a modern State. In the period of 1930-1939, the Party was transformed itself and tried to widespread his ideology (fro instance 6 arrows were accepted after 1930) after the liberal Party experience which showed its leaders how fragile was their rule over the people.

The day after Atatürk's death, İsmet İnönü was elected the second president and assumed the leadership of CHP. On the general nationwide congress of CHP on 26 December 1938, İsmet İnönü was elected as the "everlasting CHP leader". The delegates donated Atatürk the title "eternal chief", and to İnönü the title "national chief".

During 1940s, CHP established Village Institutes, which were an enlightenment project developed in order to lift the huge gap between the urban and rural areas. Various scientists, writers, teachers, and doctors graduated from Village Institutes; and supported Turkey's modernization efforts.

İnönü period

İsmet İnönü

In the elections of 1946, which were done in a "unique" fashion, whereby the votes were cast out in the open (under the watchful eyes of the state/CHP apparatus) and then they were tallied in secret by the CHP faithfuls and then burned and destroyed immediately, CHP claimed that they won the elections by a 70% majority vote and gained 396 seats and thus self-ranked as the first party. However, to protect their seats before the 1946 elections, CHP had introduced and passed the electoral legislation bringing the winner-take-all system for each province. In this system, if a party got the most votes in a province, it would have captured all MP seats for that province. However, at the elections of 1950, Republican People's Party was hit by its own electoral system, DP gained 408 seats with 53.3% vote. This was followed by the defeat on 3 September 1950 municipal elections, in which Democratic Party (DP) gained 560 municipalities, and CHP only 40 municipalities.

Real multiparty democracy started with CHP transferring power to DP in a peaceful manner, without a revolution or a coup in 1950. From that time on, Republican People's Party formed the official opposition.

On 26 November 1951, during the ninth Congress of CHP, youth branch and women branch of CHP were formed. On 22 June 1953 establishment of labor unions and vocational chambers was proposed, and the right to strike for workers was introduced in the party program.

On 2 May 1954, CHP again lost the elections to DP, gaining only 31 seats with 35.4% of the total vote. DP captured 505 seats with 57.6% vote, due to the winner-take-all system. However, from that time on, CHP started increasing its votes, CHP intensified its opposition tactics, increasing its vote share to 41%, gaining 178 seats, in 27 October 1957 elections. DP gained 424 seats with 47.9% vote.

Since Democratic Party could not stand the opposition of CHP; DP threatened to close CHP, and confiscated all belongings of CHP, including the heritage of Atatürk. In addition, Democratic Party also oppressed other opposition parties; suppressing the media, and violating democracy.

In addition to the authoritarian government, Democratic Party also suffered from corruption and increasing inflation, caused by the devaluation and external debt. In the single-party CHP government, CHP developed the railway system; but DP insisted on the highways and motorways, which increased the petroleum demand of the young Turkish Republic, creating great economic crises.

Eventually on 27 May 1960; the Turkish army, supported by the media, university professors and the opposition, seized the power and overthrew the Democratic Party government. Even though the military intervention was welcomed by some CHP members, CHP leader İnönü was strongly opposed to the coup. Although he (and his party) was threatened by the Democratic Party, he opposed the intervention for the sake of democracy.

In the military coup of 1960, National Unity Committee was formed by the upper-class soldiers. National Unity Committee closed Democratic Party and started trials to punish Democratic Party leaders for their dictator regime. As a result, on 16/17 September 1961, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan were hanged in İmralı island prison. President Celal Bayar was forgiven due to his old age, but sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1961, Justice Party (AP) was established, claiming to be the successor to the Democratic Party. In the meantime, National Unity Committee established an interim House of Representatives instead of the TBMM, in order to prepare a new constitution for Turkey. In the new constitution, Constitutional Court was to be established, to prevent the government from violating the constitution (just as in the example of DP). 1961 constitution is accepted to be the most liberal and democratic constitution of Turkey. Also, the winner-take-all electoral system was immediately abolished, and proportional representation system was introduced. New constitution brought Turkey a bicameral parliament, composed of the Senate of the Republic as the upper chamber, and National Assembly as the lower chamber. National Unity Committee chairman General Cemal Gürsel was elected as the fourth president of Turkey.

On 15 October 1961, CHP won the elections, gaining 173 seats with the 36.7% of the vote. AP gained 158 seats, with 34.8% of the vote, below the last vote of DP. CHP leader İsmet İnönü formed the coalition with Justice Party (AP) as the prime minister. This was the first coalition government in Turkey's history. İnönü established two coalition governments until the 1965 elections.

Süleyman Demirel became prime minister in the late 1960s, and because he was the leader of the AP (Justice Party), he continued in the tradition of Adnan Menderes gaining a large amount of support from both the religious and democrats.

Ecevit period, 1972–1980

Bülent Ecevit

In 1971, the army brought down the AP government of Süleyman Demirel. The secretary general of CHP Bülent Ecevit protested military intervention and resigned from his post. He also criticized İnönü for not protesting the intervention. By his quick and energetic reactions, he gained support from the intellectuals and in 1972 , he succeeded İsmet İnönü as the leader of the party. Following some interim governments CHP won 1973 elections by % 33 and formed a coalition with National Salvation Party (MSP) of Necmettin Erbakan. Bülent Ecevit began to take on a distinct left wing role in politics and, although remaining staunchly nationalist, tried to implement socialism into the ideology of CHP. The support of party also increased after Turkish intervention to Cyprus following a coup which had been staged by the Cypriot National Guard led by Nikos Sampson.

CHP and MSP had however very diverged ideologies, especially on secularity and in 1975 a new coalition government led by Süleyman Demirel was formed by four parties. Nevertheless CHP was still the most popular party. CHP won 1977 elections by % 41 vote, which is a record in CHP history. But CHP couldn't gain the majority of seats and from 1977 to 1979, the CHP was the main party of two brief coalition governments. But in 1980, the AP returned with Demirel. The political switching between the CHP and the AP came to an end when the military performed a coup and banned all political parties.

Recovery period, 1980–1992

After the 1980 military coup, the name of "Republican People's Party" and the abbreviation CHP was banned from use by the military regime. Until 1998, Turkey was ruled by the center right Motherland Party (ANAP) and the True Path Party (DYP), unofficial successors of the Democrat Party.

CHP followers also tried to establish parties. But they were not allowed to use the name CHP and were not allowed to elect the well known names of pre 1980 politicians to party posts. So they had to introduce new politicians. The three parties of CHP followers were ; Halkçı Parti (Populist Party, HP) of Necdet Calp, Social Democracy Party (Turkish: Sosyal Demokrasi Partisi, SODEP) of Erdal İnönü and Demokratik Sol Parti (Democratic Left Party, DSP) of Rahşan Ecevit. But even these new names were chosen to remind people of CHP. Necdet Calp was İsmet İnönü’s secretary when İnönü was prime minister. Erdal İnönü (internationally known pyhsicist ) was İsmet İnönü’s son and Rahşan Ecevit was Bülent Ecevit’s wife. The ban on pre 1980 politicians was lifted in 1987 and on pre 1980 parties was lifted in 1992. Both of these normalization steps were largely due to Erdal İnönü’s efforts. He also tried to unify the three parties; but he was only partially succesful. Although SODEP and HP were united in 1985 to form Sosyal Demokrat Halkçı Parti (Social Democratic Populist Party, SHP), DSP was not persuaded.

Baykal period, 1992–present

Deniz Baykal, current leader of the party

CHP was reestablished after the 1987 referendum and a legislation in 1993 which allowed the reestablishment of older parties.

In 1991, since Turkey's election system had two large election thresholds (10% nationwide and 15% local thresholds) and since center-left is divided into two parties (SHP and DSP), social democrats and democratic left groups had little power in the parliament. Between 1991 and 1995, Turkey was ruled by the coalition of center-right DYP and center-left SHP (Social Democratic Populist Party) (later SHP joined CHP). The political coalitions which ruled Turkey from the center right ANAP and DYP were making the country increasingly unstable. The Islamists returned with a new party the Fazilet (which was also later banned) while MHP the far right nationalist party had begun to take advantage of the disillusionment felt by former supporters of the Refah Party and the ever bickering ANAP and DYP.

In 1995, the Islamic Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) step into Parliament, and the CHP seemed to have been deserted by the Turkish people, having only 10% nationwide support and only 49 deputies of 550. It now seemed as if the CHP had been replaced as the main left-wing party.

But the Welfare Party was banned in 1998, and during the 1990s the Democratic Left Party (DSP), led by former CHP leader Bülent Ecevit, gained popular support. (Democratic Left Party is established by Ecevit family in 1985.) In 1998, after the resignation of RP-DYP coalition following the "February 28" post-modern and soft military coup, center-right ANAP formed a coalition government with center-left DSP and the small center-right party DTP (Democratic Turkey Party), along with the support of CHP.

However, due to big scandals, corruption and some illegal actions of this coalition, CHP withdrew its support from the coalition and helped bring down the government with a "no confidence" vote. Just before the elections of 1999, DSP formed an interim minority government with the support of DYP and ANAP; and the terrorist PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in Kenya under the Ecevit rule.

Therefore in the elections of 1999, CHP failed to pass the 10% threshold (8.7% vote), winning no seats in Parliament. Baykal resigned in 1999, Altan Öymen became the leader. But 1 year later, Baykal became the leader of the party again.

About a month after the general elections of 1999, a coalition government between DSP-MHP and ANAP was formed under the leadership of DSP. This government passed many important laws, including banking reform, unemployment insurance, law to ensure the autonomy of the Central Bank, qualified industrial zones, tender law, employment incentive law, to name a few. The government also changed 34 articles of the Constitution to widen fundamental rights and freedoms, and did this with the approval of all the parties in Parliament. Turkey became a candidate country to the European Union (without any political preconditions and with equal treatment as all other candidate countries). Three major EU harmization packages were passed during this government, including the most comprehensive package of August 3, 2002, which included the removal of the death penalty and many changes in fundamental rights and freedoms. An economic crisis which resulted from long overdue problems from previous governments caused a drop in the currency in February 2001. But 2 months later, the government passed a series of very comprehensive economic reforms which enabled the high growth of 2002-2007.

Because DSP was staunchly opposed to the invasion of Iraq by the US, a campaign to divide the DSP and force a change of government in Turkey was started. When its coalition partner MHP called for early elections in the summer of 2002, ıt was forced to enter early elections, before the results of the wide economic reforms could be felt. As a result, none of the coalition parties were able to pass the 10% national threshold.

In the 2002 Parliamentary elections, the CHP won 178 seats in Parliament, and only it and the AKP (Justice and Development Party) entered Parliament. The CHP became the main opposition party again and Turkey's second largest party. It had begun the long road to recovery.

It must be understood however, that this had very little to do with voters supporting CHP. Many were former DSP supporters who were angry at the economic crisis that many blamed on the Ecevit government. Also many DSP and ANAP supporters left these parties for AKP as did many MHP and Fazilet (now Saadet party) members.

Many on the left are still very critical of the leadership of CHP especially Deniz Baykal, who they complain is stifling the party of young blood thus turning away the young who turn either to apathy or even to vote for AKP. While AKP boast of a young leadership who have lived through many of the difficulties of many in Turkey CHP are seen as an 'old guard' that do not represent modern Turkey. The leftists also are very critical of the party's continuous opposition to the removal of Article 301 of Turkish penal code; which caused people to be prosecuted for "insulting Turkishness" including Nobel Winner author Orhan Pamuk, Elif Şafak, and the conviction of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, its attitude towards the minorities in Turkey, as well as its Cyprus policy.

Despite this recovery, since the dramatic General Election of 2002, the CHP has been racked by internal power struggles, and has been outclassed by the AKP government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the local elections of 2004, its overall share of the vote held, largely through mopping up anti-Erdoğan votes among former supporters of smaller left-wing and secular right-wing parties, but was badly beaten by the AKP across the country, losing former strongholds such as Antalya.

Much of the blame was put on the leader of CHP Deniz Baykal. After the local elections CHP was racked by defections of several key members of the party all claiming a lack of democratic structure within the party and the increasingly-authoritarian way in which Deniz Baykal runs the party. Even those who support Deniz Baykal would admit that the party would be much more successful with a different leader.

In October 2004, New Turkey Party (Yeni Türkiye Partisi, YTP) merged into the CHP. Lately Baykal is bidding for fusing the DSP and CHP together under one roof, namely CHP, under his leadership.

In order to present a strong alternative to the AKP in the 2007 national elections, the DSP showed a sacrifice and entered the elections together with the CHP. The CHP and DSP alliance received %20.9 of the votes and entered the Parliament with 112 Members of Parliament.

During the 2009 local elections, the party tried to attract the conservative and devout Muslims to the party by allowing women who wear the chador to become party members including promises to introduce Koran courses if requested in every district.[3] However, the allowing of women wearing hijab into the party was received with a severe blow when a normally-non-headscarved member of CHP (Kıymet Özgür) committed a provocation by wearing a black hijab and trying to get into an election bus in Istanbul. The incident raised questions about CHP's initiatives in favor of religious freedoms.[4] The new initiatives introduced were surprising inside and outside the party, including military leaders, which the party itself is a major defender of Kemalist principles.

Historical leaders

See also


External links

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