CHP’s Election Manifesto: Is It the Key to Government?
CHP’s Election Manifesto: Is It the Key to Government?
General elections on 7th June could bring consequences regarding the future of the political system in Turkey more than being an ordinary election that decides the political power for the next four years. The results of the election have the potential to determine the political parties’ and leaders’ future. Hence participating parties are trying to convince the electorate by using their manifestos. Such efforts are at its peak in the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) for the first time in history. In the past, the CHP tried to reach out to electorate through political issues but today, it has the economy in its manifesto, with its existing problems and its proposals for solution. From this point of view, the CHP seems to be focused on taking hold of the government with project-based promises possessing social content to convince the electorate.
As the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AK Party) continues to stand as a hegemonic actor in Turkish politics, its opponents are working hard to end this hegemony on 7th June elections. Parties (from the Halkların Demokrasi Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) to the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP)) are trying to use different strategies with a common characteristic, that focuses for the first time on increasing their effectiveness in parliamentary politics through populist manifestos. One of the boldest parties with this strategy is the CHP that used to emphasise what is ideological in their campaigns before, in order to associate with the electorate through the political discourse. Nevertheless, this time it preferred to address to the electorate only through the economic issues to win the elections. The effectiveness of this strategy will be observed on 7th June. The CHP’s manifesto for the upcoming elections and the promises in it display the potential for change in the party, which had entered into a phase of change and innovation search under the leadership of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. This article aims to read this quest for change over the latest manifesto, referring to 2007 and 2011 manifestos where necessary.
As CHP’s manifesto presents the way they are going to establish Turkey after 7th June, it mentions that the progress will be based on, in Kılıçdaroğlu’s words, a four-pillar strategy. The first pillar is ‘Participatory Republic, Accountability of the State, Transparency.’ The second pillar is ‘Globally Competitive Turkey.’ The third pillar is ‘Social State’ and the fourth pillar is ‘Sustainable Reconstructed State.’ The most important feature of the manifesto is that together with projects corresponding to every strategy, the CHP wants to emphasise its ‘project maker social democrat party’ feature, which puts the economic issues beforehand the political ones and reaches the electorate directly through tackling economy. With social reinforcements on the economy-based projects, economics and social features are blended and with this coupling of economism-populism, for the first time, the CHP faces the electorate with strength. As the CHP manifesto explains how everything is going to be done, all policy suggestions are, in Kılıçdaroğlu’s words, towards a liveable Turkey.
The CHP tries to engage with the electorate via hope in the first part of its manifesto, by setting out ‘Big transformation targets for a hopeful future.’ Technically speaking, Turkey’s problems and solutions to those problems are detailed and suggestions are materialised with projects. When we look at the way the manifesto was structured with respect to politics, economy, society and culture, we see seven main headings. These are ‘Freedom, Rule of Law and Democracy,’ ‘Job Creating Inclusive Economy,’ ‘Solidarity and Social Justice,’ ‘Qualified Public Service for the Citizen,’ ‘Nature and Right to the City,’ ‘Foreign Policy Based on Citizens’ Interests’ and ‘Information Society.’ Under every heading first the problems are explained and then detailed promises are made and materialised with projects. Actually when we look at the promises, we come across standardised subtexts that many political parties use. The noteworthy point in the CHP context here is that in comparison to its previous election manifestos, it is presenting more projects focused on solving economic problems, prioritising economy that is reinforced with social projects more than politics, and thereby it is increasing hope of the electorate. In elections of 2007, CHP’s manifesto titled as ‘Pusula 07 (Compass 07),’ was presented with the motto ‘It is time for change. Now it’s CHP Time,’ heavily relied on political issues and their solutions. Consequently, there was no instance of economic problems or solutions in the manifesto for many pages but rather issues such as terror, security, peace, secularism, foreign policy, human rights, clean politics and honest management were emphasised, to be later followed by a weak economic vision. It would be accurate to say that politics were prioritised more than economy in 2007. It is worth noticing that the term “A New Turkey,” which had not been used by Justice and Development Party yet, was used in that manifesto. According to the CHP, the manifesto was a framework to set up “A New Turkey.” In that manifesto, promises were on the political axis, such as ending terror and violence completely, ensuring security and peace in the country, preserving the modern and secular republic protecting Turkey’s rights, interests and honour in foreign affairs, enhancing democracy, providing independence of the judiciary, fighting against corruption, constructing clean politics and honest politics. Critical of the economic stability programme, the manifesto proposed to avert the risk of crisis and gain sustainable growth with the Medium Term Development Strategy under the guidance of social market economy. With an open industrialisation policy, unemployment would be reduced and social balance would be restored while maintaining strong financial markets for production economy. These steps were explained in detail.
In the same manifesto, goals of preserving national industry and becoming a leader in information technologies and informatics caught attention while there were also alternative social policies that came forward, such as ‘Citizenship Right Payment’ promising to pay every citizen 300 Turkish Liras every month, giving a share of welfare to pensioners, providing the parental support payment for the health insurance to all unmarried daughters, providing minimum wage to all widows and orphans, and providing everyone national health insurance. Although the CHP feels the need to reiterate that they are not against globalisation, it targets the enhancement of the national culture by protecting it from globalisation. The manifesto did not mention the Kurdish issue and this problem was tackled from a regional development perspective and thus through regional planning, Eastern and South-eastern Anatolia were claimed to be raised to the level of developed regions. The CHP’s main claim was that they were focused on protecting people’s rights, protecting the country against theft and protecting the state’s sovereignty. While the 2007 manifesto did not have formula towards rights and freedom, recognition of identities, living together despite differences, it should be noted that pluralist politics and society, and the cognition of intense social policies in economy have step by step become visible in the CHP after Deniz Baykal, who was the leader for 10 years from 2000. At this point let us take a look at the 2011 manifesto.
The manifesto was presented with the title ‘The Country of Freedom and Hope, Everybody’s Turkey’ and when compared to the Baykal era, it was much more inclusive in defining Turkey’s problems and proposing solutions. In terms of democratisation; amending the Article 35 of Turkish Armed Forces Internal Service Code, shortening the compulsory conscription period, writing a new and more liberal constitution by including all segments of the society, regarding any peaceful reaction legitimate, removing obstacles in the way of recognition of the Kurdish citizens, providing education in their mother tongue to those demanding it, realising demands for equal citizenship of the Alevis, making the religion courses in schools non-compulsory, removing parliamentary inviolability were examples of the promises that were provided in a detailed manner. The manifesto underlined which tools would be used to provide a civilised life for the whole society including disabled, women, villagers with no land, unemployed, public sector workers, merchants, widows and orphans, and contract labourers. Providing interest-free loans to SMEs, giving land to the villagers with no land, increasing the unemployment benefits were among the important tools. The most striking promise was the adjustment of diesel fuel’s price down to 1.5 Liras for the farmers. Similarly, paying a share to pensioners from the economic growth, half a salary holiday support for public sector workers were among other notable promises. The similarity of this manifesto with 7th June 2015 elections manifesto is observed under the heading ‘Social solidarity and equality for social justice and civilised life.’ Family Insurance, among the social policy promises, was the most popular promise of the party’s campaign. It promised to pay at least 600 Turkish Liras per month to every family and further envisaged this amount to rise to a possible 1,200 TL depending on the situation of the family. This promise caught the attention of the public to the CHP but this attention was not reflected in the ballot.
When we consider that economic factors are decisive in Turkish electorate’s decisions, CHP’s manifesto-based differentiation of priorities since 2011 could be understood better. This would also help us understand their strategy in 7th June manifesto. The question of how could the projects mentioned by the CHP be financed is a question for economists but all party speakers and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu claim that the resources are ready for the projects in every speech they give. In our view, the most enticing strategies are listed under the first, ‘Participatory Republic, Accountability of the State, Transparency’ and the third ‘Social State’ pillars. We have to add that the CHP has got into project fetishism to win the elections. When you visit CHP’s election website, you can see that even ‘Impartial President’ and ‘Foreign Policy’ are presented as projects. Instead of evaluating all of CHP’s projects and promises, we would like to answer the question ‘What is new and different?’ here. The first thing that catches attention is that the CHP has emphasised growth, development and production, which were ignored or neglected before by the democratic Left and social democrats in Turkey. Consequently the economy is defined as a job creating, inclusive economy and it is stated that a wealthy society can only be built with a human-focused approach, and with a growing economy that is producing information and technology. The role of the state is to support development. In this manifesto, we see a party that underlines a stable and inclusive growth that can only be sustained with a strong social state. This manifesto of the CHP is not against foreign capital but actually plans to use it to increase production capacities through stable and inclusive growth, and would not mention privatisation except for its objection against the privatisation of Halk Bank’s (People’s Bank). When the explanations and definitions regarding growth model are analysed, on one hand models of a typical market liberal election manifesto can be seen, on the other hand growth’s liberal sharpness is rasped by projects, policies and suggestions for the farmers and craftsmen. Therefore, social state and claims to strengthen social state and the projects in this regard make up the third pillar of the strategy and indicate CHP’s willing to construct a social state within the axis of blending production with sharing this emphatically for the first time. As Turkey’s social democrat tradition’s weak cognition of economy had difficulties in putting sharing near production, this time fairly sharing the wealth created, the idea of first producing then ‘humane sharing’ are evidence to CHP’s novelties in the manifesto.
The third pillar of its strategy, which aims to empower the social state, includes remarkably hopeful promises to families, women, young people, pensioners and disabled people. For instance, among the project based social solidarity and social justice promises, the significant ones are: double wage to the pensioners in the two bayrams (religious holidays), 720 TL income to the families without family insurance or income, status for contract workers, minimum wage to be 1,500 TL, housing for the lower income group with 277 TL instalments, deleting a significant amount of credit card interest debts. Kılıçdaroğlu defines all these projects as fairly sharing the created welfare; first production and then the proper distribution of wealth. Although the promises that appear in the manifesto are regarded as ‘positive politics’ and ‘popularisation effort;’ there is no doubt that they embrace a new type of populism. For Altun, this type of populism is rooted in the right-wing tradition and especially in the Demirel way of exaggerated technology of promising. The policy technicians from the CHP think that they can be successful by copying the AK Party’s technology of contacting with people and especially the poor. That is why in this sense; the CHP literally is a modelling of the AK Party. Keeping in mind that in Turkey, being in power means that you have to stand on the shoulders of populism since 1950, it is not surprising for the CHP to embrace this strategy for power. Besides, Turkey is quite low ranked compared to the average of the OECD countries for its share of social expenses to Gross National Product. In fact, among 34 countries it is the fourth last country after Mexico, Chile and Korea. The promise that the created wealth is to be distributed between the poor and needy fits to the social democrat goal of the CHP.
The second pillar of the CHP strategy is to build a Turkey that competes with the world through the target of improving the competitiveness of the country on the international level. The ways to achieve this are turning universities into science producing bases, productive investments for competitive growth, increase in efficiency and qualified employment. In this sense, the CHP also formulises its entrepreneurial system from the local to sector based. It presents itself to the voter with the promises like increasing the obligatory education to 13 years, education with a job guarantee and zero interest to SMEs without a tax debt. Another project that is mentioned in the same strategy is the “Centre Turkey Project,” which is declared separately from the main election manifesto. Kılıçdaroğlu presented it as the project of the century where the goal is to reach 58 countries with 1.5 billion people in 4.5 hours of flight distance. The essence of the project is to build a mega city in Anatolia where Turkey will integrate itself to the global system through railways, highways, airways and seaways. Within the scope of the project, the aim is to turn Turkey into a global harbour for the cities without sea and transporting the products to the mega city where they will be manufactured and transmitted as outputs to the world. For Kılıçdaroğlu, besides being a trade and production centre, this city will also be the centre for culture, art and fairs. Moreover, it will use the solar energy it produces and will be a smart-city. Mega city, which is significant as CHP’s visionary project, is notable with its international coverage and goal of integration with the global system. The most important feature of the project is that it reflects Turkey’s aim and claim to be a global power. The CHP, who was silent about Turkey’s global claims in before Kılıçdaroğlu and structured relations between politics and the society through ideology, taking even only this project into consideration, seems to have a claim to transform Turkey to somewhere liveable internally and powerful externally.
The fourth pillar of the strategy, which is defined by Kılıçdaroğlu as ‘Sustainable Reconstructed State,’ significantly promises a reconstruction in public administration, empowerment of local administrations, establishing a nature-friendly social life, developing Eastern and South-Eastern Turkey through the cities with high quality of life, transparency and participation in local administrations, delegating urban transformation issues to local administrations, constructing the information society, and establishing Committee of Final Accounts in the parliament.
To better understand the limits of the new policy imagination over the manifesto, one should especially look at secularity, citizenship and the perception of the Kurdish issue. In the manifesto, it is stated that understanding of secularity will be shaped according to democratic values, and it is claimed that without democracy, secularity is never safe. In this sense, the CHP promises freedom of religion and conscience will be secured, religion and politics will be separated, and it will fight against the political abuse of religion. Moreover, the Ministry of Religious Affairs will be more inclusionary and pluralistic and kept outside of daily politics, as the state will be at an equal distance from any beliefs and personal choices. In terms of materialising its understanding of secularity, the CHP develops especially projects like different kinds of institutional regulations to secure co-existence through the principle of secularism. Some of them are; in the framework of universal human rights, abolishing the obstacles in the way of opening worship places by the citizens with different religions and beliefs, granting legal status to cemevleri (Alevi worship places) as others, abolishing the compulsory religion courses and making them more pluralistic and optional. The understanding of secularity within these lines illustrate that there is still a CHP style approach to the question of secularism. In the final analysis, this approach, as for many other parties, stands on the fact that religion is to be controlled by the state and has no courage to make religion free from state and leave it in the hands of civil society. And yet, there is no clear differentiation between the self-defined conservative parties and social democrats in Turkey when it comes to deal with religious affairs.
When it comes to the significant points in the manifesto, which are related to citizenship, identity and the approach to the Kurdish question, there is a stress on integrating, rather than differentiating, effect of the identities in public and private spheres and it can only be achieved by pluralism. As the CHP’s democratic citizenship understanding and ‘co-existence ethics’ suggest, it will respect any ethnic identity and personal lifestyle. Accordingly, the Kurdish question will be approached with an inclusive democratic citizenship understanding and there expected to be a committee in the parliament which will include every party to deal with the question and solve it in a sense of national political settlement. As it is clear that it supports the Solution Process to the Kurdish Question and foresees no turning back, the party wants to make sure the process to be transparent and the solution to be sought within the legal framework. For the representation of Kurdish people in the parliament, the CHP promises firstly reducing the election threshold without emphasising the Kurdish question, and then economic development for the region, reducing unemployment and taking necessary measures to fight against poverty.
As we are approaching quickly to the 7th June elections, the CHP focuses almost entirely on the economy and gives priority to solution offers with a social content to the economic expectations of people in its election manifesto. In the 2007 manifesto, there was no clear effort to evaluate the economic issues in a social context that is beneficial for the poor. After Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership, the CHP seems to attract the voters with the election promises taking into account the facts of Turkey instead of ideological prejudices. We see this in the 7th June Manifesto in every sense. If we take the data from the manifesto as to the distributing wealth to the low segments of the society, as Bekaroğlu claims, the CHP for the first time is widely dealing with the poor. Therefore, instead of polemics with its opponent, this time the CHP builds its strategy on the economy and the actual economic problems of people, and that is why it is taken into account this much recently.
After the declaration of the manifesto, its economy-focused strategy and its effort the drag the contest into economy, for Fuat Keyman, puts the CHP back in the game. For us, it is not that easy with the manifesto to get back in the game, however; with this manifesto, the CHP, like the AK Party, without ignoring identity politics, goes beyond it and engages in politics with areas where policy choices are made, such as producing, developing and distributing projects. This is the main thing that makes the CHP different in this election and what is illustrated with the manifesto is the production of today’s and future’s global social democratic understanding. It is important to note that, in the process of 7th June, the fact that some of the election districts had primary elections for their deputy candidates and the existence of promises of projects with social reinforcements in the manifesto seem to create a hopeful excitement on voters. Although primary elections and manifesto are not enough on their own to make the CHP the winner of the election, the progress made in the process has created an expectation of change and regeneration for the post 7th June. With this expectation, the steps to be taken for the renewal of the party programme may change the CHP into a widely approved reasonable party. All depends on whether the administrators of the CHP will see this message or not.
Professor Tanju Tosun, Ege University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences
Please cite this publication as follows:
Tosun, T. (June, 2015), “CHP’s Election Manifesto: Is It the Key to Government?”, Vol. IV, Issue 6, pp.16-25, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=8973)
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