Re-elected CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu vows party ‘will never revert to street politics’

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will use all its constitutional right to protest through peaceful rallies in the name of promoting democracy against rising authoritarianism, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has vowed, ruling out “any illegal or violent demonstration.”

“Should we hit the streets and break windows and doors [in the name of strong opposition]? Never. Such an option does not exist in the CHP and I would never allow it,” Kılıçdaroğlu told daily Hürriyet in an interview on Feb. 11.

In his first interview since his re-election as CHP chair at a party convention on Feb. 3 and 4, Kılıçdaroğlu outlined his party’s road map and strategy against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of key local, parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2019.

The CHP will stage demonstrations to protest the government within the boundaries of the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, he said, suggesting that “civil disobedience” could also be part of such protests.

“We can evaluate last year’s ‘Justice March’ under this context. It was a very peaceful demonstration but at the same time it was very strong,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to his 450-kilometer march from Ankara to Istanbul in summer 2017 in protest at the sentencing of CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu on espionage charges.

“We stopped in front of the Maltepe Prison at the end of the Justice March. Now it’s time to destroy that wall. We will demolish the wall standing in the way of democracy,” he vowed.

Turkey is due to hold local elections in March 2019 and simultaneously hold parliamentary and presidential polls in November 2019, so long as the government does not opt to hold early elections in 2018.

Blasting the AKP’s works to change laws in order to formalize its “national alliance” with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and other minor parties, Kılıçdaroğlu said the ruling party is seeking such cooperation because it is worried about falling short of the “50 percent plus one vote” required to elect the president.

“[As the CHP] we will move forward with everybody defending democracy,” he vowed, without touching on whether this could lead to about a pre-election alliance with the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) or any other smaller parties.

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