Building an Ordinary Party by Extraordinary Means
The Republican People’s Party needed to choose a new leader after the embarrassing departure of its president, Deniz Baykal. In the absence of other credible candidates, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s name was put forth by the secretary general of the party and adopted by an overwhelming majority at an extraordinary party convention in May 2010. It soon became evident that Kılıçdaroğlu had to gain control of his party. A majority of the members of the party assembly were more loyal to the party secretary general who had managed Kılıçdaroğlu’s election than to the man they had actually elected as party chief, and they constituted a veto group against the policy changes that their new leader contemplated. The extraordinary convention to elect new members to the party assembly that took place in December 2010 has ended as a total victory for the party president. It is evident that new faces will now dominate the party’s administrative bodies. This convention may constitute an important or, as some have suggested, historical step in building an ordinary social democratic party, which the Turkish political system still lacks. Whether it will succeed in doing that, only time will tell.