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Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi

By:
Mete Tunçay, H. Ozan Ozavci
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi

A major political organization in Turkey for sixty years, the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican Peopleʾs Party, or CHP) was founded on 9 September 1923. The CHP maintained authoritarian single-party rule until 1946 and continued in power under a multiparty system until 1950, when it lost in the free general elections. Following the military intervention of 1960, it led several coalition governments, three during 1961–1965, one in 1974, and one during 1978–1979.

The CHP was in many ways a continuation of the Union and Progress (Young Turk) Party that ruled from the last decade of the Ottoman Empire until the defeat in World War I. It originally developed from the Defense of Rights Association for Anatolia and Rumelia (DRAAR), created at the Sivas Congress in autumn 1919 in response to the Greek invasion. Its ideology was that of Ottoman patriotism and Islamism rather than Turkish nationalism. It aimed at preserving the offices of the caliphate and the sultanate, securing the integrity of the Ottoman motherland, and safeguarding national independence. In the absence of a widespread national consciousness, it rallied the people through religion. Indeed, according to the statutes of the association, all Muslim citizens were considered to be its “natural” members.

The DRAAR was transformed into the Grand National Assembly (GNA) early in the war, and the "First Group" was formed in the assembly to secure party discipline. After the military victory, the leader of the nationalist struggle, Mustafa Kemal Pasha Atatürk, was commander-in-chief, president of the GNA, and the head of the First Group. He reorganized the latter into a political party, utilized the slogan “Popular Sovereignty”; and called this the Peopleʾs Party.

The CHP was initially only a parliamentary party, but it soon began to expand into the provinces, purging any potential opponents (yet it did not open branches in the Kurdish majority eastern provinces until the 1940s). The party unconditionally obeyed Atatürkʾs charismatic authority and assimilated his modernization program, which rested on a positivistic worldview and pursued strategies resembling those of enlightened despotisms of eighteenth-century Europe. The abolition of the caliphate in 1924 gave rise to a Kurdish rebellion in the east and initiated virtual one-man rule by Atatürk with the adoption of the Maintenance of Order Act.

Republicanism, populism, nationalism, and laicism became the main principles of the CHP in 1927. Four years later two more principles, statism and reformism, were added. Various sociopolitical reforms were carried out under these principles, ranging from changes in headgear and dress to the adoption of Western laws and the Latin alphabet—all moves in the direction of secularism.

The identification of the party with the state occurred in 1936–1937. The minister of internal affairs became the general secretary of the party, and the governors became the provincial heads of local CHP organizations. The monopolistic state apparatus could not tolerate the existence of a distinct party structure apart from itself.

Under İsmet İnönü, the second president of the Republic and the CHP, the party underwent an important change. It became a “democratic” opposition party after losing in the freely held general elections of 1950. Thereafter it polled around a third of the votes cast in each election. Beginning in the mid-1960s it became further radicalized and adopted a left-of-center course. The general secretary of the party, Bülent Ecevit, who strongly opposed the military coup of 12 March 1971, toppled İsmet İnönü and gained control of the party in an extraordinary convention in 1972, advocating a democratic leftist platform. The metamorphosis helped the party win two election victories in 1973 and 1977. The CHP’s previously strict laicism had already been softened. Indeed, in1974 it even formed a coalition government with the fundamentalist National Salvation Party

After the military coup of 1980, its activities were stopped by the junta, together with those of other political parties; it was formally dissolved on 16 October 1982 by decision of the National Security Council. Shortly thereafter, a number of center- leftist political parties were established and claimed the mantle of the terminated dissolved CHP, including the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP) and the Democratic Leftist Party (DSP). Upon the granting of permission to reform previously banned political parties in 1992, a new CHP was established.

The new CHP was founded by Deniz Baykal, a former member of parliament of the party in the 1970s, with the same emblem and party principles. It joined coalition governments during 1993–1995 and 1995–1996, and it merged with the SHP in 1995. The party’s “Anatolian leftist” course and strict laicism could not prevent it from being overshadowed by Ecevit’s DSP. It failed to pass the threshold in the 1999elections and remained outside the assembly.

Since 2002, the new CHP has emerged as the second party in all three general elections, with about one-fifth of the overall votes. In 2010, Baykal resigned as the president of the CHP, and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the deputy speaker of the party’s parliamentary group, took over. Seeking to revive the spirit of the 1970s, Kılıçdaroğlu has called for a social-democratic transformation. In the 2011 general elections, the party’s vote share increased to 25.9 percent, the highest since 1977, bringing a 33.3 percent increase in the number of seats in the new parliament.

See also ATATüRK, MUSTAFA KEMAL; KEMALISM; and TURKEY.

Bibliography

  • Günes-Ayata, Ayse. “The Republican Peopleʾs Party.”Turkish Studies3, no. 1 (2002): 102–121.
  • Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. 3d ed. New York, 2002.
  • Ciddi, Sinan. Kemalism in Turkish Politics: The Republican People's Party, Secularism and Nationalism. London: Routledge, 2009.
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