Sarıgül: CHP needs to be freed of Baykal’s ‘occupation’

September 26, 2008 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

The mayor of İstanbul’s Şişli district has once again called on main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal and senior CHP management to resign, noting that even though they have been in the party administration for more than 35 years, they have been unable to achieve anything of note.

“The CHP is detached both from God and the people. There are artificial walls between the CHP and the people. It is necessary to remove those walls,” said Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, who was expelled from the CHP by Baykal because of his harsh criticism of the party.

Sarıgül said he is on a mission to rescue the CHP from Baykal’s occupation and that he will bring the democratic left under a new party umbrella in the next general election if Baykal still “occupies” the post. The CHP’s share of the vote in last year’s general election, only about 1 percent more than in 2002, prompted numerous calls for Baykal, who has been the party’s leader for most of the past 12 years, to stand down as leader. Recently, Sarıgül and his followers gathered in front of CHP headquarters in Ankara to protest against Baykal on the occasion of the 84th anniversary of the establishment of Turkey’s oldest party.

For Monday Talk, Sarıgül provided details on the leaders of the intra-party opposition, why they think Baykal should go and how they are planning to make that happen and when.

Is it true that you are planning to establish a new political party following the month of Ramadan?

No, this is not true.

News reports cited the remarks of some well-known former senior politicians such as Onur Kumbaracıbaşı and Hikmet Çetin about a new party that would include you. Have you been talking with them?

We have been talking. Turkey is not alone and Turkey has not been abandoned. We have one main goal: The CHP has been occupied, and we have to look at how we can save the party from this occupation. We have to bring the democratic left and social democrats together to work toward that goal.

What do you mean by “occupation”? Who is occupying the party?

Baykal and his friends. There is an occupation because even though they have been in the party administration for more than 35 years they have not been unable to achieve anything of note because of their ineptness. They do not have support from the public; they are distant from the public. That’s why they can’t get votes. Local elections are approaching. Do you know the candidates of the CHP for greater municipalities or smaller places? No, because Deniz Baykal tries to increase his approval ratings by nominating politicians from the Motherland Party [ANAVATAN] and the True Path Party [DYP] who have no relation to either social democracy or the CHP. Deniz Baykal cannot say that he will resign if he cannot garner 50 percent of the vote in the local elections because Deniz Baykal is not interested in a democratic Turkey. He is only interested in preserving his post. Can he say he will win [his hometown] Antalya?

What happens if he resigns? Would the problems within the CHP be solved?

If Deniz Baykal goes and someone takes leadership who is on the side of the people, democracy, rule of law, open to technological and societal developments in the world, and, in addition, if social democrats come together, then social democracy can be resurrected, just as in the 1970s, when the CHP became the ruling party. We need social democratic unity. Right now the CHP cannot tell the nation what it thinks on agriculture, what it thinks on animal husbandry and on other things so it cannot address the needs of the people. It is detached both from God and the people. There are artificial walls between the CHP and the people. It is necessary to remove those walls. Baykal expels from the party the people who oppose him. He expelled me four times and I tried to return by taking my case to court. Why did he expel me? What have I done?

What have you done?

If I gathered 102 votes, I would be the head of the CHP today. I lost the election by 102 votes. Then Baykal expelled me from the party. He wants obedient people and slaves in the party.

What was his reasoning in forcing you out of the party?

There was a fight at the general meeting of the party and I heavily criticized [the course of the CHP]. If we don’t criticize, how are we going to advance on the way to the European Union in human rights and democracy? You cannot treat those voicing criticism in this way. This is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Baykal is not successful, but he is there. I want success and I want to win. I want the power of social democrats. Four general elections, five local elections and there is no success. And Mr. Baykal still continues [to lead the party]. His post does not belong to his father. He cannot obtain results only by hiding behind [the founder of the Turkish Republic] Atatürk. Atatürk is not Baykal’s Atatürk. Atatürk is the leader of our nation. Atatürk is the leader of modern Turkey.

Change CHP or the leader?

Shouldn’t there be more critical voices like you within the CHP so the party can be transformed by their demands?

There can’t be more voices because they are afraid of losing their posts. Why don’t the CHP deputies in Parliament oppose Baykal? Because they love their posts, not the people or God. They derive their power from their posts. I don’t derive my strength from my post. I take it from my own character.

Again the same question: Would changing its leader make the CHP different?

There should be a leader that people like; there should be a team; there should be a program; there should be projects and there should be a well-organized structure. No matter how attractive the party program is, if there is a leader that people do not like, the program is not important. For example, even if Baykal says the most important thing in the world, nobody will believe him because he has lost his credibility. If a leader cannot win the government in the first general election, he cannot be the leader in the next election either.

When did you first decide to be the head of the CHP?

It was in 2006.

What prompted you to be a contender for that position?

I was disturbed by the course that the CHP was taking. I’ve been in the CHP since my childhood, but my party is not the ruling party. I’ve been touring the entire country and I’ve been received by our citizens regardless of which party they belong to. So I was prompted by hearing the concerns of the people. Even though I faced all kinds of oppression and anti-democratic attitudes in the CHP’s general meeting, I lost only by 102 votes.

Have you ever had an opportunity to discuss the situation in the CHP with Deniz Baykal?

Deniz Baykal expelled me right after I became a candidate running against him. I returned to the party with a court order and he expelled me again. This does not occur in a democracy.

‘CHP should support Turkey’s membership in the EU’

Your municipality has a European Union center. You distribute an EU bulletin regularly. You closely follow developments in the EU regarding Turkey. Do you support Turkey’s membership in the EU, as opposed to the stance of the CHP?

The CHP is behind the developments in that regard. The CHP has to support Turkey’s EU membership more than the AK Party but it has become a victim of popular politics that abuse the public’s nationalist feelings. In my opinion, the most nationalist person is the person who loves his or her country most and who wants to help his or her country advance. We respect our traditions and beliefs, we believe in secularism, we respect our elders and we love our young people. Indeed, [the late politicians] İsmet İnönü and Bülent Ecevit [of the CHP] were the leaders who applied to the European Union first. CHP cannot be against Turkey’s EU accession. In its party program, it says that Turkey’s EU accession will be realized during the CHP’s rule.

Why does Baykal take a stance against Turkey’s accession to the EU?

He doesn’t even know what he is against. He doesn’t do his homework. It is the social democrats who support us in the European Union. They are the members of the Socialist International. It is sad that we lost our seat at Socialist International. When the CHP became a member of Socialist International in 1977, Ecevit said Turkey had joined the developed world by this membership. But today Baykal has lost his seat there as vice president!

What would you say about the peace talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus?

The Cyprus issue has become a subject of honor for Turkey. It is a good development that talks have started, but there is concern that the Turkish Cypriot side will have to compromise on major issues. Seeking anything outside of two equal societies would damage our honor.

What do you think of President Abdullah Gül’s Armenia visit?

There is no doubt that this was a correct move. In this region, Turkey is the only country which can talk with everybody. Therefore, it’s a communication channel for the world. Everybody says what he or she has to say through Turkey. This is important in diplomacy.

‘I will work hard to bring social democrats to power in 2011’

What do you anticipate for the 2009 local elections?

We no longer anticipate anything. Anticipation is fortune telling. We now have public opinion polls. Serious and unprejudiced opinion polls give us certain results. And they show the outlook.

Would you say that it is the AK Party leading the game?

Public opinion polls show this. I don’t need to say anything [He hands over a public opinion poll by ESTIMA done in August which ranked some leaders’ performances by asking “Do you have a positive view of the leaders below?” and which ranked Sarıgül as fifth by almost 57 percent after President Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt and Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan. Sarıgül is followed by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and Baykal].

What are your plans for the 2011 general elections?

I will work intensively to bring the social democrats to power in 2011. My ultimate goal is to work toward a social democratic platform that will adopt the late Bülent Ecevit’s democratic left concept, the late İsmet İnönü’s statesmanship and the late Turgut Özal’s practical solutions. I know that Zeki Sezer [leader of the Democratic Left Party (DSP)] is sensitive about that. Zeki Sezer desires a unified democratic left in power. So do Hikmet Çetin [former CHP foreign minister] and Onur Kumbaracıbaşı [former CHP economy minister]. I hope we can all work together. But I don’t know if I can be successful in that. We will see in time.

Are you going to try to do that within the CHP?

If Baykal insists on remaining CHP head following his losses in the local elections, then Turkey will seek a way out and it will find a way out.

Have you thought of a name for a new party? Will it have “social democracy” in its name?

It will be a social democratic party but we don’t think of social democracy in a narrow-minded way. We have a political stance but we want to win the hearts of every one of our citizens who give their votes to various other parties. And this is what democracy is all about. It would not be right within a democracy to vote for the same party each and every time.

Mustafa Sarıgül

Currently mayor of the Şişli Municipality in İstanbul, he was elected in 2004 for a second term. Taking 70 percent of the vote, he became the first mayor in Turkey to garner such a high percentage. Prior to becoming mayor, he had a public service career at municipalities and has long served at the youth branches of the Republican People’s Party (CHP). He has authored two books, “A Deputy in Parliament” (TBMM’de Bir Milletvekili) and “Driving in İstanbul” (İstanbul’da Direksiyon Sallamak). Among his awards are one from former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer for his contribution to bettering the quality of life of disabled people and another from the Ministry of Education for his educational contributions. His international ties won him a medal of state from Romanian President Ion Iliescu.

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Entry filed under: Interviews.

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