In two extraordinary conventions held on Sunday and Monday, CHP renewed its founding charter, making it more participatory, more democratic and more inclusive of women and the youth. Among other things, an overwhelming majority of the 967 delegates in Sunday’s 16th extraordinary convention ratified
- A gender quote of 33%
- A youth quote of 10%
- Primaries for all levels of intra-party office, municipal and general elections.
- Lowered thresholds for petitioning for new elections and recalls
By passing the amendments, CHP kept its promise to the voters that democracy must start within the party. CHP chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu also gave a speech at the 17th extraordinary convention, which sketched the road map for the new CHP. Excerpts from the speech are below:
CHP is drawing a new road map. It shall guide us to the people; it shall reflect the will of the people. It shall focus us on the urgent problems of the country. It shall deliver us to modern democracy and freedom. Why have we put a singular emphasis on democracy and freedom in the 16th extraordinary convention? Because democracy is eroding underneath us. We are being robbed off our freedoms.
The syncopathic media forged by AKP screams 7/24 that Turkey is the country of democracy to brainwash the citizens. The society is being hypnotized; this is why we decided to focus on real democracy. Turkish democracy is not in good health. There are no more any checks and balances. The entire media is under severe pressure. The journalists are being oppressed. Turkey is forced to live with the shame of having the second most incarcerated journalists after China. We shall draw the attention of the entire world to this problem.
We shall also work tirelessly to explain to our citizens that our democracy is not healthy. We need to own up to our problems and do so within the framework of democracy. CHP has defended democracy and freedom since the Congresses of Erzurum and Sivas (the conventions that started the War of Independence). Our philosophy of democracy is respect for all those who think differently. There is no democracy when all speak with one voice, think the same thoughts.
Yesterday (Sunday) we passed a very important test. This test shall be carved with golden letters in the history of democracy in Turkey. We forged internal democracy by amending our founding charter. Today, a more democratic and equalitarian CHP stands proudly before our people. This society consists of equal numbers of men and women. We broke the barriers of a male-dominated society, paving the way for women to engage in politics. CHP has always been and shall continue to be the only party that dares to do what others can only imagine. It is our historic mission to be revolutionary, to pioneer the way. Returning to our revolutionary roots, we shall go to the people with a new road map.
Another new and uniquely historic mission harks to us. This is not the time to despair. CHP must once again become the hope of our people. This is our new mission. Having established internal democracy, we shall focus on producing policy for the benefit of the nation; we shall tour the country to identify the problems of our people and shall dedicate ourselves to their solution.
After the unrest in Syria, AKP didn’t even bother to find out how it affects the border provinces. CHP is the only party that sent delegations of parliamentarians to hold the pulse of the people in the region. Currently our parliamentarians are touring all 81 provinces of Turkey to hold coffee shop meetings with the ordinary people.
CHP is in love with this nation. We love our people. Regardless of ethnic identity, creed, belief, color or dress, without exception our love embraces each and all of our fellow citizens without prejudice. It shall be our duty to prove our love to each and all and persuade them that CHP is the only big tent where they can truly and freely express their identities and beliefs.
Being a CHP member is devotion to the nation. We have a single purpose: To craft policies to enhance the welfare of the people. We build a new school of politics based on giving, rather than rent-seeking.
Each CHP members must remember that this journey will be painful. We don’t have the luxury of relaxing, expressing self-doubt or taking time off. We shall strive to communion with our people to form a common voice, a common ideal. We shall always respect opposing viewpoints and shall empathize with them. We must embrace each and all of our people to end alienation and isolation.
Democracy is not easily won. Freedom is not easily won. Patriots who fought to bring democracy and freedom to their nations have always paid very heavy prices. As your chairman I swear here that I’ll be the first one to pay the heaviest price. I invite all of you to do the same. We must establish without doubt that we shall pursue our goals without fear or self-interest.
They (AKP) have their Extraordinary Felony Courts, they have partial prosecutors, and they have district administrators, governors who only do their bidding. None of these can scare us. None of these can intimidate us. We have conviction. Our conviction is democracy and freedom for all. Our conviction has no room for hate. It is Turkey’s biggest misfortune that a hatemonger is prime minister.
Let me recite the famous lines from the great poet Nazım Hikmet. ”If you don’t burn, if I don’t burn, who shall light the way from darkness to dawn?”
PES Interim President Sergei Stanishev
PES Interim President Sergei Stanishev’s Message to CHP Convention
Excerpts from the letter are below:
“As you are aware the PES is very committed to its relationship with the CHP and to the advancement of Turkey on its path to reform and the EU. Since my meeting with Mr. Kiliçdaroğlu in November there have been many worrying developments in Turkey.”
“The ongoing violations against democratic and progressive parties in Turkey are unacceptable and the PES supports the CHP in all their efforts to highlight and prevent this. In the past months the PES has been vocal on a number of issues related to Turkey and the aggressive and unsustainable policies of the current government. “
“We are very supportive of Mr. Kiliçdaroğlu and his efforts to modernize the party and through this the country. Democracy within our parties is something that we should constantly monitor and place at the top of our agenda. I am glad that intra-party democracy, women and youth will be the driving force in the discussions of the upcoming Congress. I myself and the PES wish you all the best for this important party meeting and your ongoing struggles in Turkey.”
CHP defends girls’ right to education
AKP moved ahead with its reactionary agenda to bar women and girls from the public life with its so-called “education reform” proposal. Dubbed 4+4+4, the bill at the sub-committee extends compulsory education from 8 to 12 years, but divides it into three four year stages. Home schooling will be allowed after the 4 years, while there is no enforcement mechanism to deter parents from keeping their daughters at home, a common practice among Islamic conservatives. Moreover the bill requires children as young as 11 to choose between academic-track and vocation-track schooling. NGOs and women rights’ groups rebelled across the nation, claiming that the proposed reforms would rekindle child labor, increase child brides and condemn girls to illiteracy.
CHP has mounted a vigorous opposition to the bill:
“The government promised yesterday to ease concerns over a bill that would significantly alter Turkey’s education system, after a storm of criticism forced the bill’s submission to a parliamentary sub-commission, delaying a vote in the General Assembly.
“It is our duty to understand the concerns and eradicate them,” Education Minister Ömer Dinçer said in Antalya, adding that the decision to send the draft for possible revision to the sub-commission was made with the consent of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Dinçer rejected accusations that the bill would undermine the schooling of girls, and stressed that the AKP had no intention of stepping back on incentives it had provided so far to encourage their education.
The bill ended up in a sub-commission late Feb. 23, after a stormy debate at Parliament’s Education Commission. The sub-commission is now scheduled to take up the draft Feb. 28. Revisions are possible, but the AKP is unlikely to back down from the main provisions. The AKP had originally planned to have the bill passed by the end of the month.
Even though the AKP presented the bill as a move to extend compulsory education from eight to 12 years, critics say it would actually open the door for conservative parents to take their daughters from school after a four-year primary education, and would cater to patriarchal traditions of marrying off underage girls.
The misgivings stem from a provision that would authorize the government to introduce home schooling after four years of basic education. Opponents say the article would allow parents to confine young girls to home, or to send them to Koranic courses instead, where they would be free to wear the Islamic headscarf.
Dinçer rejected the misgivings and said the provision would be used only in “exceptional cases” for disadvantaged groups such as handicapped children and inmates. The AKP had earlier said the provision also aims to provide child prodigies with special education at home.
Despite the government’s assurances, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called yesterday for the suspension of the bill and urged a wide public debate on what education reforms Turkey needs.
The CHP’s Aytun Çıray called on women to mobilize against the bill, warning that the AKP had designed a “stranglehold” for their future.
Oktay Vural of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) slammed the fact that the bill was submitted by five AKP lawmakers, without any prior public discussion. “The state’s institutions have been by-passed. Neither pedagogues nor civic groups have been asked for an opinion,” he said.
Prominent businesswoman Güler Sabanci also joined the criticism. “The main concern is that the number of child marriages and instances of child labor would increase,” she told reporters in Istanbul.
Under the bill, the education process would be divided into three tiers of four years each. That concept would allow the re-introduction of the imam-hatip vocational religious schools after primary education. The imam-hatip schools have been limited to the high-school level since the late 1990s, as part of a strict army-led secularist campaign that forced Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign.”