Turkey’s secular opposition is expected to choose a new, younger leader this weekend at a congress that will usher out an old guard who had posed little threat to the Islamist-leaning ruling party’s hold on power. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s oldest party and the voice of the secularist elite, is seeking a makeover in the hope of stopping Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan from winning a third consecutive term in an election due next year.
Having been trounced by Erdogan’s AK Party — which has its roots in political Islam — in the last two general elections, CHP delegates will meet Saturday and Sunday in Ankara, where they are widely expected to choose Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a moderate, as new chairman, party insiders say.
The CHP suspects the AK Party, which has led Turkey’s drive for EU membership, of wanting to roll back Turkey’s secular constitution in order to turn the Muslim country into an Islamic state. The AK Party denies any such ambitions.
The CHP old guard’s virulent opposition to reform has lost it support among liberals and urban secularists, who find themselves more in tune with Erdogan’s moderate brand of Islam and his agenda to bring the Muslim country of 71 million people closer to the EU.