CHP set to propose EU solution on Kurdish issue

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Turkey’s main opposition will discuss ways to end over a decade of conservative rule in the country at an extraordinary congress to be held today and tomorrow, while also proposing the adoption of European norms of self-government in an effort to solve the Kurdish issue.

The summit will culminate in a vote of confidence on Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who must defend his seat against Yalova deputy Muharrem İnce, who has emerged as a common candidate for party dissidents. All of the CHP’s 60-seat Party Assembly will also be renewed in a vote at the congress.

The congress, titled “Unity and Fraternity,” will observe a shift in the party’s line on the Kurdish issue, as Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to emphasize that the CHP is ready to remove its reservations on the Council of Europe’s charter on local governance, a document that Turkey signed in 1992.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech today is expected to carry important messages on around 20 subjects, including an announcement that the CHP will form a commission composed of pedagogues to work on native language education.

Local governance and native language education are among the top demands advanced by Kurdish political parties, currently in close collaboration with the government for a resolution of the decades-old problem.

The congress comes after CHP dissidents called on Kılıçdaroğlu to resign and hold a congress to elect a new leader, following the party’s defeat in the Aug. 10 presidential elections. Kılıçdaroğlu came under fire for nominating a conservative candidate for the presidency in an alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), prompting criticism that he was moving the social democratic party to a
center-right stance.

The nationalist wing of the CHP, backed behind closed doors by the party’s former leadership, has openly launched a campaign against Kılıçdaroğlu, which has come to rally around İnce. İnce is known as a hard-working and ambitious CHP member and was the architect of the party’s victory in the mayoral elections in his constituency, Yalova, despite severe governmental pressure.

İnce must secure at least 10 percent of more than 1,200 delegates’ backing to run against Kılıçdaroğlu at the congress. However, he is expected to secure only around 300 signatures supporting his candidacy, so it will be hard for him to defeat Kılıçdaroğlu, who is still powerful in the party.

CHP spokesperson Haluk Koç told reporters at a press conference yesterday that the congress would showcase the party’s democratic orientation. “The CHP’s conventions have always been lively, in which multiple candidates race [for the leadership]. We are not like other parties whose leaders impose the lists [for party management] like sultans,” Koç said.

The elections for the chairmanship will take place today, while the party assembly will be elected tomorrow. The CHP will also discuss minor changes to the party’s internal regulations over the course of the two days.

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