STRASBOURG- CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, addressing a session entitled, “Is populism a problem?” at the World Forum for Democracy held by the Council of Europe, replied to questions about his strategy for the 2019 elections saying, ‘We will join forces.” Kılıçdaroğlu said, “Just as Marx in the past called on all workers to unite, we, too, must in the 21st century call on all democrats of the world to unite. All democrats of the world must unite to counter discriminatory politics and, if they do not, the world’s future is not bright.”
Kılıçdaroğlu was one of four guests participating at the plenary session of the World Forum for Democracy. He replied to Kenyan journalist Uduak Amimo’s questions along with France’s Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau, former Prime-Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark and the Special Envoy of the Canadian Prime Minister to Europe Stéphane Dion. Kılıçdaroğlu was the person who fielded the greatest number of questions at the session. It was notable that these questions came from Macedonian and Azeri participants, know to act as Turkey’s lobby at the Council of Europe.
Kılıçdaroğlu responded to the question of how populism was to be surmounted by saying, “You will be bold and uncompromising; you will be decisive.” To, “Why should it be bad to be popular?” with, “Being popular is one thing and populism another. Everyone wants to be popular. If a politician can expand their ideas along democracy’s common denominator, they will be popular, but if they fight to cling on to power, they will be populist.”
Kılıçdaroğlu gave the following reply to a question as to whether strengthening populist leaders in Europe scared him:
“We must all finally concede that populism is a huge threat for democracy and must combat populist politics with joint policies. For example, if we in the EU and the Council of Europe can adopt joint policies, we can surmount this. If politicians closely monitor changes in the world and prevent the price to be paid in advance, populism will lose strength. For example, what was happening in Syria was not seen and precautions were not taken. When Syrian refugees were massing at the gates, they then saw the problem. We have never forgotten baby Aylan, and to surmount populist politics we must see the future well and develop policies accordingly. The reason for the success of populist politics is the fear of losing their culture with the arrival of refugees. This fear is bought by politicians.”
Kılıçdaroğlu stressed the importance of education as the antidote to populism, saying, “Education is a means that brings us here, civilises us and makes us think straight. Democracy develops in all societies in which education is strong, because in democracies politics based on faith and ethnic identity is forbidden. But we must jointly combat populist politicians and this area.”
Western standards in solving the Kurdish problem
Kılıçdaroğlu, saying that he was opposed to the PKK tents being set up, voiced the opinion that, “Whoever and wherever terrorism comes from it is a shared crime.” The CHP leader said in response to the question as to how the Kurdish problem was to be solved, “With more democracy and freedom. If you introduce democracy and freedom to Western standards, you will have solved the Kurdish problem.”
Persuade the people not the leader
Kılıçdaroğlu commented in response to the question of what could be done to persuade populists, “There is no need to persuade them, you will persuade the people. You must explain the danger to them. Populists cannot attain success in the long run, but it is the people who will bear the brunt over this period.”
Kılıçdaroğlu expounded on populism with the example of Turkey. He touched on the importance of education and explaining the danger to the people by way of solution. Kılıçdaroğlu, turning to the characteristics of the populist leader, listed them as follows:
*First they try to destroy the freedom of the media and detain journalists calling them “disloyal and traitors.”
*They do not accept the independence of the judiciary, believe their own pronouncements to be true and expect the judiciary to rule in line with their own truths.
*They divide and polarise societies on the basis of faiths and identities; they try to hold their base together with this divisiveness.
*After populists have come to power, they also try to manage the economy according to their own whims and create oligarchies. Degeneration in the economy becomes commonplace. Account is never given to citizens over the taxes they pay.
*They destroy autonomy at universities.
*They make merciless use of social media and create trolls; they endeavour to legitimise lying.
*They do not refrain from interfering in elections; they want to control elections; they want to maintain their own existence because they have supressed the judiciary. Even if injustices in elections find their way into OSCE reports, populist politicians shelve these reports in their country.
While Kılıçdaroğlu was responding to questions, a cartoon appeared on the screen. The cartoon depicted Kılıçdaroğlu waiting at the democracy bus stop with the caption, “We will wait a long time in Turkey.”
Kılıçdaroğlu: We will join forces in 2019