Since the result of the general chairship contest at the CHP’s 36th Ordinary Congress had more or less been predicted, the real excitement was generated by the Party Assembly elections. Even if, despite the number of applications on the first day exceeding 800, this number halved with the withdrawal of candidates not included on headquarters’ key list, the number of candidates was still high. Just as at every congress, a considerable number of key lists were also made at this congress. But, the real contest was that between General Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s key list and the list fielded on behalf of Muharrem İnce and “Left Courage”. There were also names that appeared jointly on İnce’s list and the headquarters’ and left group’s list. Given that, from this list, only Tuncay Özkan and Gökhan Günaydın managed to defy the list, this means that the delegates who voted for İnce for general chair did not vote as a block. Had they done so, they would have been able to get quite a few people onto the Party Assembly. Kılıçdaroğlu’s list that had been awaited expectantly gave rise to seemingly unending discussion among delegates and press members. With those having seen the list cautioning one another, “This is a fake list. This cannot be Kılıçdaroğlu’s list. Mind you don’t fall for it,” in the end it was too much to bear and clarification was obtained by asking Central Executive Committee members. Seemingly a different list had been expected, leaving them in doubt.
Prior to the vote, candidates attempted to garner votes by finding partners from different provinces. Needless to say, this gave rise to some interesting dialogues. One such dialogue that took place immediately before the press gallery caused great amusement to those of us who listened in. With a candidate from the south who was trying to get the vote of a Black Sea candidate saying, “I have spoken to the Antep, Urfa and Adıyaman delegates. Half of Antep and Urfa are going to vote for you and Adıyaman is with you all the way, mate. You speak to your delegates and get me votes,” the Black Sea candidate met the lie head on, saying, “Son, you smart arse, the Adıyaman elections were cancelled. There are no delegates to be with me all the way,” causing the other’s speedily departure. As voting commenced, rows of ambulances were lining up in front of the congress auditorium. With those poisoned by the doner sandwiches they had eaten being transported to hospital, a portion of the MPs thronged towards the hospitals without being able to vote. As some of the poisoned party members started to fall ill on the road, they were taken to hospitals in provinces along the way. The best quip about this was made by a woman delegate. While I was chatting in the auditorium to my longstanding friend, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Group Deputy Chair Ertuğrul Gülsever, an acquaintance of mine since the 70’s, a woman delegate sat on a chair next to us and chipped into our musings over the poisoning. We burst into laughter on the woman delegate proclaiming, “Quite honestly, we at headquarters have been saying for years we should eliminate the membership and recruit them again but a method of eliminating them like this never occurred to us.”
From ear to ear
When the vote counting started, the numbers of candidates’ votes kept going up and down like the stock exchange index. News that, “Tekin Bingöl’s fallen” was doing the rounds and then further news came that, “Tekin Bingöl’s out and Bülent Tezcan’s instead.” Four or five minutes later somebody calls from the galleries: “Mehmet Bekaroğlu is stuffed,” and another replies, “The same goes for Sezgin Tanrıkulu it seems.” In the end, the Central Executive Committee members, apart from Bekaroğlu, manage to get elected even if suffering plenty of deletions and getting a low vote. Sarıyer delegate Ali Rıza Yılmaz’s inability to make it onto the list was understandable. Delegates said that two people from the same sub-province were too many and left Ali Rıza Yılmaz off the list, having selected Gökhan Zeybek. Looking at those who defied the list, conversely, the message that the delegates wished to send can be read as follows: They are not comfortable with candidates picked from among party management, the prevailing mixed-up policies of muddled thinkers and people emanating from the right taking posts in the party’s senior management. Another message given by the delegates was that they are cool with organic CHP people, those whose hearts beat on the left and party stalwarts.
No turn to the right, all clear on the left