New Turkish opposition party leader sacks secularist old guard

By Reuters Staff
May 24, 2010
istanbul

Istanbul, 24 May 2008/Tom Heneghan

Turkey’s new opposition leader has purged key hardline secularists and set a tentative reformist course in a bid to regain ground lost to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, which critics accuse of secretly pursuing an Islamic state.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 62-year former civil servant, was elected chairman on Saturday following the resignation of veteran party leader Deniz Baykal over a sex tape scandal. The CHP delegates elected the new party assembly on Sunday.

While courting the more militant secularist elite, the CHP has lost support among urban, middle-class voters by firmly resisting AK’s European Union-inspired reform steps to pare back army influence and liberalise the economy. The CHP has vigorously opposed moves by AK, which denies Islamist ambitions, to reform a constitution born of a 1980 military coup.

“A major difference from Baykal was the lack of any mention of secularism in his speech,” wrote Today’s Zaman, the daily newspaper of the Fethullah G├╝len movement. “The emphasis on secularism, a dominant tone in Baykal’s speeches, was replaced with the economy.”

Read the full story by Selcuk Gokoluk here.

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