CHP, Socialist International on brink of breakup

Frustrated by what appears to be an imminent wave of criticism of his party's conduct, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has decided to boycott a meeting of the world's socialist and labor parties that begins today in Athens.

CHP leader Deniz Baykal, nonetheless, yesterday participated in a local Mulberry Festival in Ayaş, a town in Ankara province.
Last week, a member of the Socialist Party (PS) of France, Alain Chenal, told Today's Zaman that that the Socialist International (SI) Ethics Committee might suggest a common position to all SI members regarding Turkey's SI member the CHP. Back in the summer of 2007, the SI Council had launched a monitoring process into the CHP over its commitment to the principles of democracy.

A report drawn up by the committee was discussed at a meeting of the council on June 30 last year. The report, which was adopted unanimously, called on the SI to investigate "how the CHP acted when it comes to support for democracy."
Baykal, a vice president of the SI, got wind of criticism to be made public at the Athens meeting and sent his party's deputy chairman and foreign policy executive Onur Öymen to Europe to lobby influential SI members on the CHP's behalf. Öymen spoke with many influential members of the SI, including its president, Greece's main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader, George Papandreou.
However, Öymen's efforts went in vain and Baykal eventually announced yesterday morning that he will not attend. He is rumored to have been waiting for a telephone call to be initiated by Papandreou, hoping to be persuaded to participate in the conference. But all the CHP leader received was an indirect message from the Greek politician.
"As the president, I cannot recommend any political party or member to either bring or not bring a particular issue to the agenda," Papandreou was quoted as saying to Baykal in the message, sources say. Speaking to his party's senior executives upon receiving this message, Baykal accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) -- which defines itself as a conservative democrat party -- along with European social democrats of lobbying against the CHP via talks with SI executives.
He suggested that the CHP has been protecting "the Turkish Republic and secularity" and said his party has done nothing wrong. "Attempts against the CHP are aimed against Turkey," Baykal said. In comments published in yesterday's Milliyet, Baykal told Milliyet Ankara Bureau Chief Fikret Bila that his party was considering a break with the SI, if need be. "If they are in doubt that the CHP is the creator, implementer and protector of Turkey's modernization project, if they are in doubt of the CHP's social democrat character, then we can say that 'everyone should go their own way,'" Baykal told Milliyet.
The CHP is expected to discuss whether to break with the SI during a meeting of its Central Executive Board (MYK).

Pro-status quo or not
When the SI Ethics Committee report was presented at the council meeting, a member from Sweden felt the need to take the stage and underlined the fact that the report did not actually call for "an examination on the overall situation in Turkey's political life." Swedish politician and SI member Anne Ludvigsson told Today's Zaman then that rather, it called for "monitoring and investigating the CHP's stance regarding the course of affairs in Turkey's democracy and political life."
The CHP has received much criticism from SI members, who say its "nationalist rhetoric" is in violation of universal democratic standards. Ludvigsson said at the time that she was annoyed when the CHP took a supportive stance toward what appeared to be a military intervention in politics during Turkey's failed presidential election process.
The Turkish military issued a powerful statement on April 27 last year, hours after the first round of the presidential election, expressing concern over secularism debates in the context of the election and warning of intervention. Earlier the same, day the CHP took the ballot to the Constitutional Court, which annulled it, saying in a controversial ruling that there should have been at least 367 deputies in attendance during parliamentary voting.
The CHP did not receive criticism solely from SI members; a group of human rights defenders in July addressed an open letter to the SI while launching a petition campaign to have the CHP expelled from the SI. "We, as owners of the signatures below, want to express our uneasiness over the CHP's membership in the SI. The CHP, which is provoking nationalism with its barrier to freedom of thought and expression and its manner and discourse against multiculturalism, has lost its social democrat identity and has turned into a pro-status quo, right-wing nationalist party," the letter read.

DTP to replace CHP?
The Democratic Society Party (DTP), an observer member of the SI, has been supporting the body's criticism of the CHP, slamming the main opposition party's policies both inside the country and at SI meetings abroad.
Only one political party from one country can be a member of the SI; other left-wing parties can serve as observers. If the CHP is expelled from the SI, the DTP is expected to become a member of the body. The DTP faces a closure case at home. Last year, a top court lodged a formal complaint with the Constitutional Court seeking the closure of the DTP on the grounds that it had become a "focus of activities aimed at damaging the independence of the state and the indivisible integrity of its territory and nation" after the party called for Kurdish autonomy in the Southeast.