Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu: Republican People’s Party (CHP) Will Render Democracy Functional in Turkey

On December 2, the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution hosted Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), for an address on Turkey, its foreign policy, and its relations with the United States.

Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, speaking through an interpreter, addressed his party’s vision on three main pillars: a strong democracy, a strong economy and a responsible foreign policy.

“There are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power,” he stated.

Once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. … Government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power. You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion. You must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise. You must place the interest of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

These are the conditions, he said, that prevail in Cairo and the whole region. “When CHP … comes to power,” he said, “it will redraw the boundaries between the different forces and it render our democracy functional.”

The party will “certainly abolish the 10 percent election threshold” because “it victimizes people.”

He also spoke to an independent judicial system free of the political system’s influence. The CHP will “do away with the shadow of the political authority that is cast on the high council of judges and prosecutors.”

On freedom of the press, Kılıçdaroğlu said “all obstacles standing in the way of freedom of thought and expression have to be abolished. We believe that a free press is a founding stone of a democratic nation. We do not want to see Turkey, which has now turned into the largest jail for journalists in the world … during CHP’s rule, Turkish media will breathe a sigh of relief, and there will be no censorship whatsoever.”

Kılıçdaroğlu also addressed the rights of women and minorities, young people, education, the European Union, Israel, and similar goals between Turkey and the United States.

He concluded that the CHP, “is the only political institution that can actually fulfill the ideas of full democracy, the rule of law, human rights, freedoms, and the principal of secularity. We will do so by creating a healthy economic policy and responsible foreign policy as well. 

Turkey Project director Kemal Kirişci moderated a discussion that followed the remarks.

Event audio is now available.

On November 18, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu gave remarks on Turkey’s foreign policy in a statesmen’s forum address hosted by CUSE.

Colleen Lineweaver contributed to this post.