Introduction and Overview

CHP was founded on September 9, 1923 under the leadership of the Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the name of “People’s Fırka (‘fırka’ meaning political party in Arabic)” first. It changed its name to “Republican People’s Fırka” in 1924, then to “Republican People’s Party” in 1935. CHP adopted four foundational principles in 1927: “Republicanism”, “Populism”, “Nationalism” and “Laicism”. In 1935, the number of the principles went up to six with the addition of “Statism” and “Reformism”. Its logo consists of the 6 Arrows which represent these principles.
CHP is the Party that gained independence for the nation, founded the Republic, abolished the sultanate, ended the caliphate and ensured National Unity under the leadership of Atatürk, its founder and first chairperson. It shaped the modern Republic of Turkey through reforms in social fields such as law and education. It spearheaded the development of national industry and economy. It pursued its pioneering mission in Turkey’s process of democratization by ensuring transition into the multi-party regime in the wake of the Second World War, even though it could have enjoyed the advantages of its position under the one-party regime. It also spearheaded the institutionalization of the opposition under a democratic regime when it assumed the role of the opposition in 1950s. In this context, it struggled for materializing the changes needed to institutionalize the parliamentary democracy and improving basic rights and liberties. In 1960s, social classes fully developed in Turkey within the framework of certain dynamics such as migration, urbanization and industrialization as implications of the process of modernization that the country was undergoing, which led CHP to trend towards the left and position itself in the “center-left”. CHP defined its ideology by the concept of “democratic left” in 1970s and targeted “a change in the order” through the social reforms it proposed. Within this process, CHP transitioned from the “party of the state” to “party of the people” and from “party of the order” to “party of the change”. Building on its special historical legacy of having founded the Republic of Turkey and being the most rooted political party of our country, CHP adopted the universal principles of social democracy in addition to its own principles that represent its heritage and foundations in the best way and joined the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists that conduct activities at the international level. The concepts of “freedom, equality, solidarity, superiority of labor, collectivity and efficiency of development and democratization” are among the main principles that CHP is currently trying to institutionalize in Turkey and underlining in the party Programs

Establishment of Republican People’s Fırka


Our Founder, Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, at the 4th Convention of the CHP, Ankara, 9 May 1935

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made the first announcement on the establishment of CHP on December 6, 1922 and used the name of “People’s Fırka”. As is known, the Great Leader Atatürk was planning on making reforms for the purposes of eliminating the issue of underdevelopment and the threat of collapse for the country and creating a modern and advanced society well before the end of the War of Independence. These objectives could have only been achieved through a political party that draws its strength from the people and focuses on realizing these objectives within a certain program. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk uttered the following words while announcing his intention to form a party:
“…I intend to establish a political party under the name of People’s Fırka based on the principles of first peace, then Populism with the aim of dedicating my entire life to the good of the country as a humble member of the nation, to be deserving of the favor and trust put in me from all segments of the society and even from the farthest places of the Islamic world, of which I will be eternally proud”.
When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made this speech, the War of Independence had just ended; the Armistice of Mudanya had just been signed; the Sultanate had just been abolished and Lausanne Peace negotiations had just started. In the meantime, political grouping had accelerated in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the need for political parties had emerged in the political life. In his press statement on December 6, 1922, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk stated that a new era had started and asked for the people’s help and intellectuals’ contribution in the upcoming modernization process just as during the War of Independence.
Atatürk embarked on a nationwide tour right after this speech. In a speech he delivered during the tour, he used the following words that would constitute one of the foundational principles of the People’s Fırka in the years of establishment:
“I do not think that our nation has different social classes who pursue very different interests, and therefore, are in conflict. Our social classes need, complement and supplement each other. Therefore, the People’s Fırka shall work to guarantee the rights, development and wellbeing of all classes”.
As seen here, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk stated in his speech that the People’s Fırka could not be based on classes; could not discriminate between classes; and that it would embrace all classes as a political party. This speech is the prelude to the party’s response to the quest of a “self-confident, coherent society without privileges” that emerged in Turkey in the wake of the War of Independence as stated in the 10th Year March, and to the drift towards a nation state.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk published a declaration as the Chairperson of the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia on April 8, 1923. This text, referred to as 9 principles since it is made up of 9 principles, is actually an “election bulletin”. This election bulletin also serves as a draft party program for the party to be established. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the parliament members who supported the establishment of the party then started working on the party constitution. The prepared constitution adopted “Populism”, “Republicanism” and “Nationalism” as foundational principles and included the concepts of “National Sovereignty”, “Reform” and “Rule of Law”.
Following these developments, the “Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia” turned into the “People’s Fırka” and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk applied to the Ministry of Interior on September, 9, 1923 to declare the establishment of the “People’s Fırka”.
As shown by the evolution of CHP in the process of transforming into a party, the Republican People’s Party is the continuation of the “Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia”. Initially called the “People’s Fırka”, the party’s name was changed first to the “Republican People’s Fırka” in 1924, then to the “Republican People’s Party” in 1935.

From the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia (A-RMCH) to the Republican People’s Fırka (CHF)


CHF Nacaran Ocağı, 29 October 1934

CHF Halk Kürsüsü, 1930s

The Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia was founded to guide the National Struggle in the years of the War of Independence; to represent all social segments / classes; and to ensure national unity. It was founded in the Sivas Congress that convened on September 4 to 11, 1919. The People’s Fırka owned up to the legacy of the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia and showed that it was the continuation of the parliamentary Group for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia, which was, in turn, the continuation of the Association. As a matter of fact, when the People’s Fırka was established, the provincial and district branches of the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia replaced their signs with those of the People’s Fırka. Hence, CHP organizations were established almost everywhere in the country –in all towns and villages as well as the provincial and district organizations.
CHP’s main philosophy was based on the two abovementioned foundations throughout the one-party regime. These are: acting as the successors of the Defense of Rights movement (the unwavering charisma of CHP leaders, especially Mustafa Kemal Pasha, due to the fact that they had won the National Struggle);
Representing all social segments (CHP used the understanding of a “Coherent society without classes or privileges” as a base in a social structure where class structure was not developed while traditional and rural structures prevailed).
Built on these two foundations, CHP represented all social segments in the country as a “people’s” party. In fact, the Census in 1927 revealed the fact that there was not a significant class structure in the country and that the social structure was mostly made up of agriculture-based rural and traditional social structures.
The Census in 1927 showed that the occupational groups representing modern social classes such as the industry, trade, services and liberal professions accounted for 7 per cent of the population. On the other hand, the rate of those representing the traditional social structure such as farmers and those who did not have a profession was above 90 per cent. Therefore, the Republic inherited a considerably traditional and predominantly rural social legacy.
In this period, CHP acted as a “national” party that represented all social segments. That said, CHP always defined its way of government as “democratic”. As a matter of fact, the clause of Populism included in the Party Program stands for people’s will and democracy. The principle of Populism as it appears in CHP Party Program can be summarized as follows:
Democracy is
not granting privileges to any individual or class other than their common, public rights,
not accepting class conflict.

First and Second Groups in Parliament…

The parliament that led the War of Independence had a wide range of political and ideological approaches. There were very different ideological groups in the first parliament. The most distinct group division was between the First Group and the Second Group. Even though these two groups had converging ideas about the salvation of the country, they had differing opinions on what the regime’s character would be. Mustafa Kemal Pasha led the First Group while the Second Group did not have only one leader. Hüseyin Avni (Ulaş), Ali Şükrü and Selahattin Beys were the prominent figures of this group. The ideological distinction between the two groups can be summarized as follows: The First Group claims that “the law of revolution is above all existing laws”, while the Second Group argues that “insurrection is also lawful. Extraordinariness is also lawful”. These two arguments are the clear expression of the philosophical and political differentiation between the two groups.
Evidently, the First Group that would later turn into CHP under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha had a Revolutionist and Reformist world view while the Second Group adopted a traditional, conservative and populist understanding. The members of the Second Group did not make it to the Second Parliament after losing the elections in 1923, in the wake of the War of Independence. In this period, Rauf (Orbay) Bey founded the Progressive Republican Party along with other dissident pashas. Hüseyin Avni Bey, Kara Vasıf Bey and Selahattin (Köseoğlu) Bey followed him to join the Progressive Republican Party and established the Party’s Istanbul branch. Thus, the dissident wing that had broken off the First Group, and the Second Group merged. Some former Unionists also joined the newly established Party.

Understanding of Revolutionism for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Republican People’s Party...

Mustafa Kemal Pasha expressed his revolutionist objectives well before, while the Erzurum Congress was still ongoing. He had planned what to do after the War of Independence, when there was neither a Parliament nor an Army around, right after the Erzurum Congress (August 7 and 8, 1919), and had them written down in Mahzar Müfit Bey’s (Kansu) diary:

The form of the government will be a Republic after the victory.
The Sultan and his dynasty will be handled as necessary when the time comes.
Veiling will be abolished.
The fez will be abolished; hats will be worn as in civilized nations.
Here, M. Müfit Bey says, “With all due respect, sir, you have a lively imagination”. M. Kemal Pasha replies confidently: “Time will show that. You just write it down”.
Latin alphabet will be adopted.

M. Müfit Bey shows his disbelief and says, “This will suffice, sir!”. All the things that M. Müfit Bey described as dreams would come true under the leadership of Atatürk. The institutions of the traditional society –of a Medieval Society—such as the Sultanate, Caliphate, Madrasahs, Sharia Law would be abolished though revolutionist methods in 1920s. They would be replaced by the institutions of a modern society and intensive efforts would be exerted for the internalization of the Republic as a regime by the people. Reşit Galip, the architect of the University Reform in the following years (1930s) and the Minister of National Education, explains CHP’s understanding of modernization through this revolutionist discourse and method with the following words: “We must abandon this gradual way of advancement; advance rapidly and fiercely in the direction of science through reforms; and add a new law to the existing conventional laws”.

Revolutions That Came Along with the Republic...

It must be noted that two big revolutions—the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution—played a role in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire stood by both revolutions and embarked upon a period of regression in face of the Western world. These two revolutions helped the Western World to move away from the traditional social structure (agricultural economy, religious-monarchal state structure, religious community-based social structure, predominantly rural population) towards a modern social structure (nation-state, industrialization /capitalization, enlightenment, individualization, urbanization…). In short, the trends of capitalization and nationalism approached the Ottoman to a fall. The partial modernization efforts introduced by the Ottoman Empire in this period were not enough for salvation. Therefore, the Kemalist Republic tried to remove the gap between itself and the Western world through a fundamentalist / radical modernization policy—in other words, a “revolutionist” policy. Even the election banners of the time bear the signs of this approach. In fact, CHP said, “We fit a century into a year” in one of its banners in 1930s. The revolutions in 1920s replaced the institutions of the traditional society with those of a modern society. The revolutions and reforms in 1930s were evidently efforts to ensure that the society internalized the new institutions established through revolutions. The revolutions also clearly envisaged to build a new nation. The course of revolutions by year was as follows:
1922: Abolition of the sultanate
1923: Proclamation of the Republic, Izmir Economic Congress, Declaration of Ankara as the Capital
1924: Abolition of the Caliphate, Unification of Education, Closure of the Madrasahs, Establishment of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, Abolition of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Pious Foundations
1925: Closure of Islamic Monasteries and Zawiyahs, Abolition of Tithe, Hat Law, Establishment of Ankara Law School, Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar
1926: Civil Code, Code of Obligations, Penal Code
1927: Law on Civil Proceedings
1928: Adoption of New Letters, Establishment of National Schools, Removal of the Phrase “The State’s Religion is Islam” from the Constitution, Adoption of International Numbers
1929: Code of Criminal Procedures
In 1930s, two important steps were taken to entrench the revolutions.
Education and culture policies: Establishment of Community Houses, Community Rooms, Turkish Historical Society, Turkish Language Association, Organization for Rural Teachers, Village Institutes.
Economic development: Immediate development of the country through public and private sectors and establishment of multiple industrial, financial and similar development institutions for this purpose.

Six Principles...

In parallel with the development process of the revolutions, CHP’s 6 principles gradually entered into the party program. The principles of Republicanism, Nationalism, Populism, and Laicism were adopted in the CHP Convention in 1927, to be followed by the principles of Statism and Reformism with the CHF Convention in 1931. The CHP Convention in 1935 defined these principles as Kemalism. On February 5, 1937, these 6 principles were included in the Constitution. Here is how “Nationalism” was defined in one of CHP’s official publications called “Fifteenth Anniversary Book” dated 1938: “All citizens who speak the Turkish language; grow up with the Turkish culture and adopt the Turkish ideal within the Republic of Turkey are Turks, regardless of their religion and origin. (…) According to the new Turkish nationalism, the Turkish nation is a great, honorable part of the big family of humanity. As such, she loves all humanity and does not bear enmity or preach enmity against other nations as long as her national interests are interfered with”. CHP’s understanding of “Statism” leans on two main points: Establishment and construction by the state’s own hand; and regulation and control of the works left to the private sector. The Fifteenth Anniversary Book explains the reasons behind Statism as follows: “The path towards ensuring the economic future of the Turkish nation that had been exploited for centuries by foreign countries; saving the nation from buying the products of foreign production plants; preventing the sales of the country’s primary materials for a bargain price and the purchase of foreign products for a very expensive price in turn, could have only been found by adopting and implementing the principles of Statism. The new state of Turkey took the most fundamental measures for this. It was necessary to protect the national industry by regulating the competition between the goods to arrive from foreign markets and the goods exiting the country to empower the national industry and by sustaining the partial expensiveness stemming from the high costs due to the extra expenses specific to the first year of establishment for the newly established factories. This could only have been possible by imposing additional customs duty on the goods to be imported and by restricting and regulating the imports of foreign goods. This principle of protection was guaranteed by laws adopted by the Grand National Assembly and, thanks to the intervention of the State’s regulating hand in foreign trade, the balance of international payments was secured and the place of the Turkish agricultural products in the world expanded. … The Republican People’s Party’s approach of Statism has nothing to do with a Collectivist and radical type of Statism that does not allow personal or individual entrepreneurs or activities; does not recognize property rights and concentrates all economic activities and production tools in the hands of the State”. Here is how the principle of “Laicism” and the process of secularization are defined in CHP’s Fifteenth Anniversary Book: “The Republic of Turkey is a state mechanism that is inspired by the life itself and its positive needs and requirements rather than religions and religious verses. Religion has no influence on the state and worldly affairs. This principle is called Laicism. … When the Republic abolished religious courts and introduced the Civil Code to establish judicial unification and annulled the madrasahs to establish the unification of education; this meant the elimination of the influence of religion on the community’s way of living. In this way, freedom of conscience—one of the most crucial public rights—was ensured in the most comprehensive and ideal manner, thanks to Laicism. Freedom of conscience is the first condition for a community to be outstanding and civilized and it leaves spirituality up to individuals’ own conscience and faith, severing all disincentive ties between individuals’ faith and the functioning of the state and the community. An individual’s tendency towards atheism or this and that belief system can be considered neither a flaw nor a virtue in terms of their national and social duties, in national and social life. As of the moment when religious and worldly affairs were separated from each other and laicism was adopted in Turkey, no one can be forced to worship and no one can be denied the right to worship as they choose on their free will. There is naturally no place within the borders of this great, comprehensive approach for fusty, corrosive manifestations of the reactionary mentality like Islamic monasteries and sects that have the capacity to silence even the highest social structures”. According to CHP’s understanding of “Republicanism”, the source of sovereignty is the people. Within this scope, the Turkish Revolution was the most radical transformation in our history and it aimed to abolish the “sultanate” and replace it with “national will”. Thus, “subjects” were replaced with “citizens”. According to CHP’s understanding of Republicanism, the Republic of Turkey was founded on a unity of principles and ideals. The Republic draws its power from the equality and integrality of all people with their rights. Citizenship is a basic concept that serves as basis as a common element and “space of rights” for everyone. CHP’s understanding of “populism” attributes the basis of political legitimacy to the people and removes economic and political privileges; it means being there for people who do not have anyone and finding solutions with and for the people. As explained in detail above, CHP’s “reformism” is peaceful, radical change; it means keeping up with the times and embarking upon the future. It means opening up to modern arguments to grasp and adopt innovations and turning this into a continuous way of life and government. It means clearing the path towards the better and the right by questioning the rules and oneself and coming up with the tools and methods of development in this way. Based on this understanding, CHP pursues reformism with the people, drawing power and authority from the people, sticking to the rules of a democratic state of law and peaceful methods.

Flag of Six Arrows...

The Fifteenth Anniversary Book published by CHP a short while before the passing of Atatürk states the following in addition to the objectives listed in the 1923 Party Constitution: “The Party Program drawn in the third and fourth Grand Conventions of Republican People’s Party fully, clearly and explicitly shows the main arteries that will take the Turkish nation to its national ideal. This program was not designed for a certain class or community; but for the entire nation, for all citizens that will work for the rise to civilization which is the new and progressive objective of the country. This program contains six important qualities explaining the tenets for the existing and next generations of the Republic, set forth by Kemalism and represented by six white arrows on red in the Party’s flag”. CHP started using the flag with six arrows in 1933. CHF Flag Guidelines explains the usage and shape of the flag. Ismail Hakkı Tonguç from the Gazi Education Institute’s Painting and Crafting Department designed the flag with six arrows. Flags with six arrows were sent to party branches before the Republic’s 10th year anniversary celebrations.

Kemalism Becoming Official...

“Kemalism” became official when the CHP Party Program was adopted in the Fourth Grand Convention in May 1935. The “Introduction” part of the Program makes the following remarks on Kemalism: “The main ideas that form the basis of the program of the Republican People’s Party have been simply manifested in the works conducted since the beginning of the Turkish Revolution, up until today. Apart from this, the most prominent ideas appeared among the general principles of the party constitution that was adopted in the Party Convention in 1927 and in the declaration of the General Presidency ratified by the same convention as well as the declaration published on the occasion of the general assembly of the parliament in 1931. The outlines of our projects not only for a few years ahead, but also for the future, were collectively written down here. All of the principles that our party follows are the principles of Kemalism”.

First Programs and Nine Principles of the Republican People’s Party…

CHP’s first party program is dated 1931. However, the “Election Manifesto” dated April 8, 1923 known as “Nine Principles” announced by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the Chairperson of the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia, must be considered a draft program, as well. CHP emerged when the Association for the Defense of Rights in Anatolia and Rumelia that saved the country from invasion turned into a political party with an emancipation and modernization-based identity. In this sense, the party that saved the country in the War of Independence assumed a mission of founding a state / nation in the post-1923 period. In fact, CHP programs adopted throughout the entire one-party regime (in 1931, 1935, 1939 and 1943) all clearly refer to the establishment of a new state and a new nation—and to the Nine Principles. Thus, some of the most striking elements of the Nine Principles are as follows: Sovereignty rests with the nation;
The problem of security will be solved;
There will be a judiciary reform;
The term of military service will be shortened;
The war-torn country will be reconstructed;
Economic and social policies that serve the interest of the people will be implemented (redrawing of tithe, regulations on the plantation of tobacco, credit facilities for producers, agricultural mechanization, railways construction, spread of education, organization of the health system, efficient operation of forests, development of animal husbandry).
The first article of the Regulations of the People’s Fırka adopted on September 9, 1923 states that the Party will work to 1. facilitate the exercise of national sovereignty by the people and for the people; 2. advance Turkey as a contemporary state; 3. assert the authority of the law above all powers in Turkey. It might be surprising at first to see the topics of homeland, nation and state appearing in the introduction of CHP programs dated 1931, 1935, 1939 and 1943. However, considering the fact that the construction of the nation and the state was still ongoing in the said period, it is natural that the discourse and practices in this period were also in line with the programs (the work to do) that served this objective. In fact, M. Kemal defined the Turkish Revolution in his speech made in CHP’s Fourth Grand Convention on May 9, 1935 as follows: “A wrecked country on the verge of a cliff… Bloody struggles against multiple enemies… Then, new homeland, new society, new state, well respected both within and outside the country, and unceasing revolutions to achieve this… This, here, is the brief summary of the Turkish Revolution…”. The 1931 program stated that “women would be accorded the right to be elected as a member of parliament” in advance of all the other modern nations of the time. This target was achieved before the next Party Program in 1935. The Party Program dated 1931 identified a direct election system as an end target that could be implemented once the society reached a certain level of maturity (in the future). The party program dated 1935 receded from the idea of transitioning into a direct election system in the future, adopting rather the principle of democratizing the existing indirect system. The Party Program of 1943 prepared under the influence of the Second World War had a more backward quality in this regard, stating that the existing indirect election system would continue. The 1935 program was more detailed than the 1931 program. The Party’s ideology was defined as Kemalism. It strikingly indicated that no class-based communities originating in other countries with international objectives could be established. It also stated that workers and artisans would be organized by the party; the first example of which came from Izmir. Various resources suggest that Recep Peker prepared an authoritarian and totalitarian party program and constitution which was rejected by Atatürk in this period. However, there is no such draft program and constitution in sight. The fifth section “Administration during the world war” and the sixth section “Possibilities after the world war” in the 1943 Program are an important indicator to the fact that the Party had adapted to the circumstances of the time and revised its program accordingly. In fact, one of the most important items on the agenda for CHP Conventions that convened every four years throughout the one-party regime was working on the Party Program. Similar to the gradual adoption of the “Six Arrows”, Kemalism kept on developing, evolving into an ideology and finding a framework throughout the one-party regime.

Efforts to Develop Social Infrastructure in the Republic’s Process of Establishing Democracy…

The attempts with the Progressive Republican Party and the Free Republican Party clearly showed that the social infrastructure was still inadequate for establishing a multi-party regime in Turkey. It was also observed that the revolutions were not sufficiently internalized by the people. Therefore, two main roadmaps were followed to explain the revolutions in the correct way and help the society understand and internalize them. The first aimed to raise the level of education/culture and the second was comprised of initiatives to promote rapid development/industrialization.

Educational Campaign: Organization for Rural Teachers, Village Institutes and Community Houses…

The legacy of education that the Republic inherited from the Ottoman was not promising at all. The share of students in total population was very small—only 2.9 per cent. A great majority of these students was made up of primary school students—2.8 per cent. The rate of secondary school students was 5 out of ten thousand while the rate of high school students was only 1 out of ten thousand. In this context, an educational campaign and a rapid increase in the society’s level of education emerged as an urgent policy priority. Saffet Arıkan, the Minister of National Education of the time, announced during the budget discussions for his ministry at the parliament on May 26, 1936 that very few children in rural areas were able to go to school and that, if the efforts in this field were not accelerated, we would have to wait for a century to be able to send a teacher to each of the 35,000 villages with no schools. Indeed, 32,000 out of 40,000 villages did not have schools, post offices or shops in 1933. Only 2 per cent of the population in 40,000 villages with 11 million inhabitants were literate. Therefore, the “Organization for Rural Teachers” was founded in 1936 and 1937 as part of the quest for solutions. Those who served the army as corporals and sergeants were assigned to rural schools as teachers after completing their 8-month courses. “Village Institutes” were established in 1940—by 1950, 26,000 educators and institute graduates had been sent to villages. “Community Houses” were built for the training of adults. 34 Community Houses were established in 1932 and the number reached 478 in 1950. 141 Community Rooms were established in 1940 as smaller-scale versions of Community Houses this number went up to 4322 in 1950. Having fulfilled important and multi-dimensional functions for the education of the people in this period, Community Houses were comprised of 9 branches. These were: Language, history and literature, Fine arts, Theater, Sports, Social assistance, Community classrooms and courses, Library and publications, Ruralness, Museums and exhibitions. Community also took on the literacy courses for adults, delivered by National Schools before. Despite the intensive educational campaign, only 32 per cent of the people had become literate by the time the Democratic Party (DP) came to power in 1950. The majority of the population still did not know how to read or write. One of the objectives of Community Houses involved efforts to create a Notion of citizenship. As a matter of fact, it is observed that Atatürk exerted intensive efforts to lift the spirit of the people and give them a sense of national pride, in many of the speeches he delivered.

The best music is the sound of machines and the biggest national cause is industrialization…

Another important step taken was towards rapid development and, in this direction, industrialization. On January 13, 1923, M. Kemal Pasha announced the Turkish Economic Congress that would be held in Izmir to journalists from Istanbul in Izmit and said, “New Turkey will not be based upon cold steel, it will be built through economy, on which cold steel is based. The new state of Turkey will not buy the world. The new state of Turkey will be an economic state”. Industrialization was one of the biggest national causes for New Turkey. And the best music for the intellectuals and the leadership of the time was the sound of machines. The term of Atatürk during which the country’s economy was nationalized and the public and private sectors invested together for rapid industrialization, had a much more successful and glaring performance as compared to the following terms. This success is also reflected in the economic indicators. In fact, the increase in GNP was 115 per cent between 1923 and 1938, under the term of Atatürk. Furthermore, there was no price increases under the term of Atatürk; to the contrary, the Turkish Lira kept gaining value. In short, our country economy lived its “Golden Age” under Atatürk’s term. The main reasons behind the success of the term of Atatürk—the most successful term in our republic’s history in terms of economic development—can be listed as follows: Nationalization and Mixed economy, Balanced budget, Balance of foreign trade, Prevention of unbacked money printing and 0 inflation and, as a result of all these, rapid development rates. The priority objective was development in 1930s. However, the understanding of development of the time was not limited to the economic field only; it also included other fields of social life such as education and culture. As a matter of fact, within the framework of such an understanding of development, Celal Bayar –who was in the management of İşbank—was first assigned as the Minister of Economy in 1932, and then as the Prime Minister in 1937. The determining factor behind replacing Ismet Inönü with Celal Bayar was the shift in the country’s priority objective towards development. Celal Bayar, the Minister of Economy of the time, clearly set forth the understanding of development of the time, in the Second Industrial Plan dated 1936 and said, “Industrialization is a fight for national existence for Turkey; it is a national defense struggle and no sacrifice or trouble can be compared to the result of this national struggle”. The approach to development was to conduct the relative efforts in a planned manner. In this context, five-year industrial plans were introduced and the the industrialization policy that was followed had an import substitution quality. Thus, large-scale public enterprises were founded primarily in the fields of weaving, sugar, cement, paper, bottle glass, iron and steel, etc. Here are some of the factories that were established in this period: Alpulu Sugar Mill (1926), Uşak Sugar Mill (1926), Bünyan Weaving Mill (1927), Eskişehir Sugar Mill (1933), Turhal Sugar Mill (1934), Bakırköy Textile Mill (1934), Konya-Ereğli Textile Mill (1934), Kayseri Textile Mill (1934), Izmit High Grade Paper and Cardboard Mill (1936), Karabük Iron and Steel Mill (groundbreaking, 1937), Ereğli Textile Mill (1937), Gemlik Silk Mill (1938), Bursa Merino Mill (1938). Great importance was also attached to transportation policies and, primarily, to railroads construction that are critical for building a domestic market in this period.

CHP Forged Relationships with Progressive and Democratic Political Parties in Europe, rather than the Fascists of Europe…

CHP participated in the 9th Congress of Radical Democrats on August 12 to 15, 1933 in Sophia. Saffet Arıkan had also participated in another congress of radical democrats (1927) as an “observer” in the years before. In CHP’s Grand Convention dated 1927, the idea of directly participating in the union formed by radical parties was rejected. However, as can be understood by their participation in the congress in 1933, CHF kept on participating in these events as an “observer”. The congress in Sophia tackled the issues of unemployment, workers’ wages and customs walls. Removal of the customs walls and establishment of a European Customs Union and a single-currency international bank were suggested as the next stages to go through for the European Federation. When it comes to the political decisions taken in the congress, it was stated that, “a democratic way of government can enable moral and intellectual collaboration within social organization of countries because only such a way of government can ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, the independence of courts and the freedoms of expression and press”. It was critical that the International Entente of Radical and Similar Democratic Parties advocated for a progressive and democratic Europe against the rising totalitarian regimes in Europe and brought into question the ideas that would later form the foundations of the European Union. The fact that CHP was in a relationship with this organization as a party representing the Kemalist power in Turkey was meaningful in the sense that it revealed the intellectual foundations of the founders of the Republic.

While the General Tendency was Towards Totalitarian Regimes on the way to the 2nd World War, CHP Moved Turkey Towards Democracy…

Totalitarian (fascist and communist) regimes were on the rise as a general tendency in the world between the First and the Second World Wars. It was striking that Kemalist Turkey forged relationships with radical/progressive and democratic parties rather than this type of parties; made two attempts to transition into a multi-party regime in contrast with the global trends and succeeded in moving to the multi-party regime in its third attempt, even if it was at the cost of losing the power. The number of democratic countries rapidly decreased between the First and the Second World Wars. In fact, 29 out of 64 independent states (45.3 per cent) were democratic in 1922 while in 1942, only 12 out of 61 states (19.7 per cent) had democratic regimes. The share of democratic countries decreased by 56.6 per cent between 1922 and 1942. The general trend in the world was a rapid shift towards totalitarian regimes in the period in question while Turkey made tenacious efforts to move to the multi-party regime and for democratization, which must be underlined here. It is crucial to correctly analyze what happened in this period, to well understand CHP’s mission in our country’s modernization process.

CHP’s Understanding of Nation and Nationalism Has Never Been Based on Race…

The 1924 Constitution clearly explains New Turkey’s understanding of nation and nationalism. Article 88 of the Constitution stipulates: “The name Turk, as a political term, shall be understood to include all citizens of the Turkish Republic, without distinction of, or reference to, race or religion. Every child born in Turkey, or in a foreign land of a Turkish father; any person who resides in Turkey and who chooses upon attaining the age of twenty to become a Turkish subject; and any individual who acquires Turkish nationality by naturalization in conformity with the law, is a Turk. Turkish citizenship can be forfeited or lost in certain circumstances specified by law”. Two parliament members submission two different motions on the issues of nation and nationalism while the Constitution was being discussed in TGNA. Neither was accepted by TGNA. The first motion came from Niyazi Bey, a Mersin deputy: “The word Türkiye (Turkey) is repeated many times in the law. We had discussions with the Committee on the Ottoman Basic Law. They accept my proposal, as well. It is not right to use the word Türkiye, after calling the subjects Turks. In fact, the term Türkiye was borrowed from Italian and it originates in Arabic. There is no place for this term. Turkish state, Turkish subjects, Turkish Grand National Assembly are all the same; all comprise the word Turk. Therefore, I suggest the revision of this word as Türkeli”. The other motion submitted to the office of the parliament speaker came from Naim Hazım, a Konya deputy: “I propose that the word Turk in the first paragraph of the article is amended as Türkiyeli (a person who is from Turkey) and that the other paragraphs are amended and organized as such”. In his book titled Civic Notes (Medeni Bilgiler) prepared in 1930, Atatürk explains the concept of nation on the basis of modern values, leaving out racism, as follows: “A nation is a political and social community that is based on the unity of language, culture and principles”. Atatürk did not cite race or religion among the factors making up a nation in the same book when he noted, “The people of Turkey who founded the Republic of Turkey are called the Turkish nation”; thus, he gave a definition of upper identity nationalism comprising all ethnic groups in the country.


“We have suffered. The reason behind this is that we could not understand the trajectory of the world”. In addition to the concept of nation, the concept of Laicism was defined in the official texts of the time. The Fifteenth Anniversary Book dated 1938 contains the following definition: “The Republic of Turkey is a state mechanism that is inspired by the life itself and its positive needs and requirements rather than religions and religious verses. Religion has no influence on the state and worldly affairs. This principle is called Laicism”. The issue of laicism was an important item on the agenda in Turkey in 1930s, as it still is today. Mahmut Esat Bey (Bozkurt), the former Minister of Justice, came up with an interesting proposal after some incidents in Bursa in 1933: “I think there is an issue that needs to be solved starting today. Religious affairs must be gradually separated from the state’s budget; they should be regulated under the supervision of the state, but with a special budget, according to the Civil Law. Preachers and metropolitan imams must have a major in theology and must speak foreign languages. It would also be very beneficial if smaller city imams had a level of education in line with their position so that they can understand Laicism”. The Turkish Revolution can be defined as an overdue movement towards modernization and building a secular nation; Atatürk described the perspective of the Turkish Revolution in the context of secularism and civilization in his speech delivered in Kastamonu in 1925 as follows: “We have suffered. The reason behind this is that we could not understand the trajectory of the world. Our mentality and understanding will be civilized. We will not attach importance to what others say. We will be civilized. We will be proud of it. Look at the entire Turkish and Islamic world. (…) This is why we lagged behind and ended up sinking in the swamp of destruction. The fact that we managed to save ourselves in five to six years was thanks to the change in our understanding. We cannot stop now; we will move forward no matter what. Going back is out of question. Because we have to move forward. The nation must clearly know that the fire of civilization is so strong that it burns and destroys those who disregard it. We are going to find our place within the family of civilization; we are going to protect and elevate it. This is the source of prosperity, happiness and humanity”. The period that witnessed the most rooted and radical changes of our 200 year-long modernization history was between 1923 and 1950, which was called the “Radical Modernity Project” by Tekeli-Ilkin. This period witnessed the Turkish Revolution under the leadership of Atatürk (until 1938) and the one-party regime. Institutions of the traditional society started to be replaced by the institutions of a modern society in this period. Agricultural economy, religious-monarchal state structure, religious community-based social structure and rural social structure that symbolize traditionalism were replaced by concepts and notions of modernization such as industrialization, nation-state, enlightenment, individualization, urbanization and institutionalization.

II. From One-Party Rule to Opposition: CHP’s Renaissance and Focus on Socialist Identity…

Considering that the Turkish Revolution was primarily an attempt to save the country and then a modernization project, the natural outcome of this movement obviously needed to be democracy. As a matter of fact, the attempts with the Progressive Republican Movement in 1924-1925 and with the Free Republican Party in 1930 and the quests of independent deputyship (1931-1939) and the Independent Group (1939-1946) should all be considered as initiatives to establish democracy. The Turkish Revolution was completed to a great extent when the 1950 elections were held in a fair and reliable manner and, as a result, the 27 year-long one-party rule ended through democratic means, free of problems. A one-party government choosing to move towards a multi-party regime and hand over the power to opposition on its own will was unprecedented at the time, as it still is. Thanks to the efforts of Ismet Inönü and other CHP leaders of the time, the Republic regime was now completed with democracy. The efforts in question inspired admiration and respect in the entire world in those years. After saving the country from invasion, ensuring full independence and founding the Republic, CHP had managed to establish democracy.

1950 Elections…

The legal regulation for the 1950 elections was introduced with the Election Law adopted on February 16, 1950. This law regulated some basic issues such as secret ballot, open system of vote counting, guarantee of the judiciary and establishment of the supreme election committee. From this perspective, it provided very important achievements. Two important things can be expected of an election system: The first one is election safety and the fair execution of elections—which was guaranteed by Election Law dated 1950. The second one is justice in representation. The Election Law dated 1950 did not fully guarantee the latter. CHP realized this only after the 1950 elections. DP had secured 52 per cent of the votes and 84 per cent of the deputyships while CHP had secured only 14 per cent of the parliament seats even though it had received 39 per cent of the votes. CHP was the victim of the unjust election law. There was not a significant difference in terms of the number of votes for the parties. CHP can even be considered successful as it managed to receive such a high rate of votes despite the weariness caused by the 27 year-long power and the troubles caused by the Second World War. As a matter of fact, CHP had lost the elections but it was not a heavy defeat. The real defeat would emerge in terms of representation in the parliament. The imbalance between the number of votes received and the number of parliament seats won, would pose one of the main reasons behind the problems experienced throughout 1950s. The transition from the majority system into the proportional representation system would only be achieved later with the 1961 elections.

CHP’s Process of Refreshment and Massification in the Post-1950 Period…

CHP’s defeat and loss of the power in 1950 serves as an important turning point for the party. Refreshment became one of the hottest items on the agenda for the party. A CHP Convention was held in June 1950 right after the election defeat, during which Kasım Gülek was elected as General Secretary as opposed to Nihat Erim—who was the candidate supported by the Chairperson Ismet Inönü—and Şemsettin Günaltay. For traditional CHP members, it was a surprise that Gülek was elected as General Secretary. After all, the elected general secretary was not the person supported by the National Chief and the Unchanging Chairperson Ismet Inönü; but his opponent. During his term as the general secretary, Kasım Gülek visited every corner of the country and initiated the process of massification for CHP. Well liked within the party organization, Gülek maintained his position as the General Secretary between 1950 and 1959 with increasing respectability and popularity. The fact that Gülek was elected by the party organization as general secretary and maintained his position for 9 years despite Ismet Inönü is quite meaningful as it demonstrates the progress made in in-party democracy in such a short time.

1954 Elections…

Following the 1950 elections, CHP did not succeed at the desired level at the 1954 elections either. However, thanks to the efforts of Ismet Inönü and the role of Kasım Gülek as the general secretary, the party both restored youth in its organization and increased and hardened its opposition to DP. The disappearance of the positive atmosphere in the economy after the first half of 1950s, increasing poverty and rising inflation put DP in a difficult position, accelerating in-party conflicts. In contrast, CHP started to rapidly gain strength in this period. The 1957 elections were held in light of these developments.

1957 Elections…

DP had become more and more authoritarian, trying to oppress the opposition and the press and it attempted to keep the opposition from cooperating by setting the elections at an earlier date (1957). Certain election irregularities were a hot topic of discussion. The opposition still managed to increase its votes in the elections and DP’s votes could not attain the level of 50 per cent for the first time. The opposition, on the other hand, received more than 50 per cent of the votes. DP would have probably lost the elections if a proper election alliance had been built and the elections had been held in a healthier manner. Even so, CHP managed to increase the number of its parliament seats to 173 in 1957, after 69 seats in 1950 and 31 seats in 1954, which was a significant achievement. DP’s actions towards becoming more and more authoritarian even though they had come to power through democratic means, leaning towards an oppressive regime in face of the increasing economic and political problems and expanding the area of the oppression in a way that covered opposition parties as well as the press, seriously damaged democracy and parliamentary system. The Fatherland Front platform initiated by DP in late 1958 exacerbated polarization in the country. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes invited the people to join the Fatherland Front on October 12, 1958 and defined the opposition as the front of hatred and enmity. In face of Menderes’ anti-democratic discourse and actions, Ismet Inönü said, “The DP Chair shall fall short of calling a recess from democracy”. However, unable to tolerate the opposition conducted in the parliament and in the country in general, DP would both opt for violent acts and attempt to eliminate the opposition. Ismet Inönü, co-founder of the Republic of Turkey along with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, former Prime Minister and former President, exhibited a patient example of how to conduct opposition, just like he had patiently and devotedly taken the necessary step to complement the Republic with democracy.

CHP’s Renaissance…

In general terms, CHP went through an important transformation process throughout 1950s. In this period, it improved its relationships with large masses on one hand. On the other hand, it became a representative for democracy, rights and freedoms. In fact, the “Primary Objectives Declaration” published in early 1959 clearly shows the change the Party underwent. This declaration indicates that the party had assumed a populist and socialist identity. Here are the main objectives mentioned in the declaration: Anti-democratic law will be abolished.
The Constitution will be amended by adhering to the principles of popular sovereignty, social justice, state of law and social security.
The office of the head of state will be impartial.
The judiciary’s supervision on the executive branch will be rendered active and efficient.
A Second Parliament (Senate) will be established.
The judicial review will cover all administrative authorities.

CHP opposed to DP’s oppressive regime that peaked with the Fatherland Front, the Committee of Inquest and student protests; and established good relations with the people. Prior to May 27, intellectuals, university lecturers, university students and members of the military as well as CHP started to openly criticize the government of DP. Pressures on the press and the opposition, anti-democratic practices of the party in power, the Fatherland Front, deterioration of the economy, inflation, public servants’ loss of income in parallel with price increases, poverty and mistakes in foreign policy enabled CHP to gain more strength. When it comes to CHP’s promises in the Primary Objectives Declaration, they were fulfilled to a great extent with the 1961 Constitution.

III. Center - Left…

An era ended and a new one started when CHP handed over the government to DP in 1950. This 30-year-long period that started in 1950 and ended in 1980 witnessed two military coups; one in 1960 and one in 1980. With the addition of the interim regime that started on March 12, 1971, this period witnessed three interventions that suspended democracy. The Turkish democracy was suspended because of two military coups and one intervention despite CHP’s insistent, determined and applied quests for democracy in Turkey. The liberties that were guaranteed by the 1961 Constitution provided a conducive environment for masses to rapidly become politicized in an atmosphere of increasing social problems as well as for CHP to embrace social opposition. In the process of social stratification that emerged in 1960s as a result of unplanned migration, urbanization, industrialization and capitalization dynamics, and contained deep inequalities, CHP clearly put forth its stance in favor of the oppressed in rural and urban areas, in the sectors of industry and agriculture—basically in every field— and clearly defined its place in the political spectrum. In this period, CHP introduced new political solutions that gave hope to the poor, the oppressed and the working class and positioned itself on the lines of social democracy based on social justice, democracy, equality, solidarity and fair distribution, in the political spectrum. Thus, having successfully completed its mission as the political party that founded the State, the Republic and Democracy until 1950, it turned into a party that protected the poor and the oppressed who increased in number in the post-1950 period and, in this way, strengthened its social opposition identity. Having completed its first mission and handed over the government in 1950, CHP regained hopes of coming to the power again in 1965, through its “Policy of Center-Left”. The developments leading to 1965 must be considered as a preparation phase for the Center-Left policy. Indeed, the merging of the Liberty Party and CHP and the transfer of figures from this party such as Turan Güneş and Turhan Feyzioğlu to CHP served as an important step. Another important factor was the presence of Kasım Gülek, a politician with strong communication skills. The most important factor was CHP’s ability to establish close, warm dialogue with the people as an opposition party. The “Primary Objectives Declaration” in 1959 was a striking milestone on the path leading to the Center-Left. Constitution discussions, the Senate, the Constitutional Court, unionist organization, the right to strike for workers, democratization of the election system (proportional representation system)… these objectives were fulfilled with the Constitution dated May 27. However, the military invention pushed CHP away from coming to power alone. To the contrary, the military intervention caused CHP to lose votes. Another important issue to underline here is Ismet Inönü’s efforts to prevent the executions of Menderes, Zorlu and Polatkan. Even though these efforts failed, Talat Aydemir’s two military coup attempts were prevented during Inönü’s term as prime minister. Even so, the military intervention and the executions were attributed to CHP, which prevented CHP from coming to power alone at the 1961 elections. Even though CHP fell behind the share of votes it had received in the 1957 elections, it managed to come out the elections as the first political party and founded the first coalition government of the Republic history following the elections. CHP could have maybe come out the 1961 elections as the party in power if it were not for May 27. The coalition governments that CHP dominated between 1961 and 1965 and the policies that these governments followed were actually a preview of the future Center-Left policies. Ismet Pasha’s declaration confirming that CHP was at the Center-Left right ahead of the 1965 elections marked an important beginning. The manipulative response of the Justice Party (AP) to the Center-Left approach came soon: “Center-Left, Moscow’s Path!”. Due to the undesired results obtained at the 1961 elections and in light of the developments in Turkey and in the world, CHP underwent a structural change. Socialist ideas had started to draw a great deal of interest both in Turkey and in the world in this period. It was particularly striking that the Third World countries that gained their independence in face of colonialism, founded regimes with socialist tendencies.

Cyprus Issue and Johnson’s Letter…

The Cyprus issue was the primary item on the agenda in Turkey’s foreign policy post- 1960. Due to this issue, Johnson’s letter jeopardized the good relations with the US that had started with the Soviet Union threat after the Second World War. As a matter of fact, the US did not allow Turkey to use the weapons she had received from the US in Cyprus. Ismet Inönü said, “A new world shall be established, and Turkey shall find her place there” and announced that Turkey’s alliance with the West could be open to discussion. Even though this attitude brought the end of Inönü governments, it was in harmony with the anti-imperialist intellectual environment of the day. It even had parallels with CHP’s leftist policies.

Strengthening Liberties, Rise of the Left and Center-Left Initiative…

The 1961 Constitution brought about a conducive environment for liberties and provided opportunities for new, leftist initiatives. One of these opportunities involved the establishment of the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) and the other one involved the fact that a group of intellectuals inspired by the Kadro Movement in 1930s issued first the Yön Magazine (1961-1967) and then the Devrim Newspaper (1969-1971). The real debate occurred within CHP in this period. Some believed that Ismet Inönü used the “Center-Left” approach only as a slogan and that the concept would not be supported with concrete actions. However, this is not what happened. CHP sincerely intended to keep pace with the changing national and international circumstances of the time. The start of the industrialization process in Turkey and the increase in the number of workers along with industrialization, the process of migration and urbanization and the rapid increase in the rate of urban population are among the main factors that deeply affected CHP’s ideological renaissance. CHP had acted as a national political party that was above classes in the foundation stages of the Republic; while in this new period, it concentrated more on the low-income, working class. Superiority of labor, equality and social justice were the main focal points in CHP’s policy at the time. The discourse “Land Belongs to Those Who Cultivate It and Water Belongs to Those Who Use It” was followed by “Just World Order” and “This World Order Must Change”… The argument that CHP was a leftist party had also been raised in the years of transition to the multi-party regime. In an effort to explain the ideology of the party, Ismail Hüsrev Tökün defined CHP as a party to the left of DP in 1946: “The way that the Republican People’s Party is handling the cause of land, the measures it has taken to regulate the affairs related to workers’ health, worker organizations, social assistance, social insurance, etc. are all leftist steps. However, the Democratic Party does not support the idea of private enterprises taking on such obligations. As such, the Republican People’s Party is positioned to the left of the Democratic Party with all of its social practices”. Having positioned itself to the left of DP before, CHP then redefined its ideological structure in 1960s and placed itself to the right of TIP and at the “center-left”. The changes in Turkey’s class structure also affected CHP’s adoption of the center-left policy. The acceleration of the transition from the bourgeoisie of trade to the bourgeoisie of industry and the increasing effectiveness of the workers’ class and unions were the main determining factors that led CHP to choose the side of the proletariat. The term “Center-Left” was merely “discourse” when it was brought up by Inönü in 1965. However, this initially hollow term was soon supported with a concrete basis and transformed into the ideological identity of the party. According to Inönü, the Center-Left characteristic was part of CHP’s essence and spirit of foundation in 1923. This line of thought served as a starting point for the generation of democratic leftist/social democratic policies by CHP. Various groups emerged within the party between 1965 and 1972. Ismet Inönü constantly tried to strike a balance among these groups. However, it was not always possible to reconcile these groups. This caused some members to severe the links with the party, as seen in the cases of Feyzioglu and Kemal Satır. We can list the groups in question as follows: Group of Feyzioğlu, group of Satır, group of Nihat Erim, Third Worldists (Muammer Erten-Hüdai Oral…) and group Ecevit/Center Leftists.
The group of Ecevit wanted to take action on the Center-Left discourse. We can list some of their basic discourses as follows:
Rely on and trust the people;
Adopt democracy with all its aspects;
Oppose to military juntas and coups;
Side with the oppressed, workers, laborers.
The quarrel on who is going to take the lead after Ismet Inönü also made an impact on the conflict among groups. Individual disputes were also impactful. However, the main driving force was the ideological renaissance of the party. The ideological renaissance in question moved Ecevit first to the office of general secretary and then to chair the party.

General Secretary Bülent Ecevit and Center-Left…

In the period between 1965 and 1969 when the Justice Party held the power alone, CHP had to cope with in-party opposition on one hand. On the other hand, it had to struggle against the party in power. In this struggle, Ismet Inönü remained in the background and followed balance politics while Bülent Ecevit –who was elected as the party’s general secretary—came to the forefront. It was Bülent Ecevit who responded to the attacks. The 18th party convention in 1966 witnessed the competition between center-leftists and center-rightists. Center-leftists came out the convention victorious. Here is what Bülent Ecevit said in his speech in the convention: “Those who oppose to the center-left are in contradiction with Atatürk’s principles. If a party includes the land reform in its declaration; guarantees the right to strike; tries to nationalize oil, that party is at the center-left. A party at the center-left is a party that has become aware of the social renaissance as Inönü suggested. We need to carry statism forward. We are fighting against foreign companies that try to put oil in pledge (…) We did not lose the elections because of the Center-Left. We lost the elections because we opposed to internal and external exploiters. We will keep opposing to them. Because there lies the salvation of the Turkish nation”.

1970s…“Land Belongs to Those Who Cultivate It and Water Belongs to Those Who Use It” “This World Order Must Change”

Having been defeated against AP at the 1969 elections, CHP put forward the principle “land belongs to those who cultivate it and water belongs to those who use it” which occupied an important place in the party’s discourse in 1970s. Based on this principle, CHP turned towards villages who were a big source of votes for AP and attracted a great deal of interest and a large social base. CHP voiced the rightful concerns of those who complained about the existing world order and started to seek alternative solutions at the democratic left with the slogan “this world order must change”. In addition to the party’s publications, the Ozgür Insan magazine was used as an important platform where these ideas could be expressed and discussed. The primary issue for which the party had discussions with intellectuals and searched for solutions was the agricultural system. These discussions underlined the necessity of the land reform and tackled the issues of the agricultural cooperative system and taxation in agriculture. Bülent Ecevit wrote the foreword to Ziya Gökalp Mülayim’s book titled the Change in the Order of Agriculture, in which he stated, “We must first change the agricultural order to be able to establish a more advanced and a more humane social order”. Villagers adopted the land reform objective to such an extent that actual land occupations started in certain regions where villagers put up signs and prepared graffiti: “This is a land reform area” or “There is an ongoing land reform movement in this village”. CHP politicians walked side to side and shoulder to shoulder both with villagers and with workers during a strike or a protest. This was natural under the circumstances of that time. The circumstances prevailing in the country and in the world increasingly attracted the masses into politics. Having been defeated against AP in the 1969 elections.

CHP’s Third Chairperson: Bülent Ecevit…

Bülent Ecevit opposed both to the memorandum dated March 12 (1971) and later to the assignment of a minister who was a CHP member to the government formed by Nihat Erim. When his request was not accepted by the Chairperson Inönü, he resigned from his role as the general secretary of the party. Even though Bülent Ecevit left the party management, he never severed all ties with the party. To the contrary, he worked to reinforce his relationship with the party organization. Bülent Ecevit and Ismet Inönü competed against each other at CHP’s 5th Extraordinary Convention dated May, 1972. Ismet Inönü said, “Either me or Ecevit” while Bülent Ecevit asked, “I will say this very clearly: Are we going to be free, law-abiding members of a democratic party or are we going to be the sultan’s households troops? It is up to you”. The team of Bülent Ecevit received a vote of confidence at the convention. This is why Ismet Inönü left his position as the party president. At the presidency elections held on May 14, 1972, Bülent Ecevit received the majority of the votes of the delegates and became CHP’s third chairperson after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Ismet Inönü. Once he was elected as the chairperson, Bülent Ecevit decided to withdraw from the March 12 interim regime government. A short while after this decision, Kemal Satır and his friends left the party. Satır and his friends founded the Republican Party which, then, merged with the Reliance Party founded by Turhan Feyzioğlu and became the Republican Reliance Party.

1973 Elections and CHP-MSP Coalition…

CHP entered into the 1973 elections under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit. CHP’s slogan and the title of the detailed declaration it had prepared ahead of the elections for which it used a discourse focusing on a change in the world order, was To Shiny Days. CHP demanded a just world order and presented a detailed program in its election declaration. Thanks to the fusion it had achieved with larges masses in this process, CHP managed to receive 33.3 per cent of the votes and came out the elections as the first party. Even though it secured 185 seats in the parliament, it could not come to power alone. Since it was not possible to form a coalition with AP, a coalition government was formed with the National Salvation Party (MSP) led by Necmettin Erbakan. This coalition government had important structural divisions and could only last for 9 months (from January to September 1974). Even though the government had a short lifetime, it witnessed the Cyprus Peace Operation; the Cyprus landing equipped Ecevit with great charisma. On the other hand, Bülent Ecevit had aimed at early elections when the coalition dissolved, which did not happen. Following the government crisis that lasted for months, the government of the First Nationalist Front comprised of right-wing parties, was established (1975-1977).

1977 Elections: CHP at the top…

CHP performed very well as an opposition party in this period, which led to the highest rate of votes in CHP’s history at the 1977 elections: 41.9 per cent. However, the election system did not allow CHP to come to power alone. It was necessary to have 226 parliament members to have the absolute majority. CHP had 213. It lacked 13 parliament members. Meanwhile, since the CHP minority government could not secure the vote of confidence, the second MC government was formed. This government did not last long, either. Having transferred 11 deputies from AP and having secured the support of CGP and DP, CHP managed to form the government in January 1978, even though it was not easy. Coming to power after the MC government, the CHP government was faced with significant problems. However, the government was not strong enough.

On the way to September 12…

Terrorism had become a serious problem in late 1970s, and the economic embargoes and the issues of black market, inflation and economic depression stemming from the foreign exchange bottleneck, had worsened. People expected solutions but problems kept growing. The number of murders by unknown assailants rapidly increased. This situation caused the CHP government to lose prestige and votes at the interim parliamentary elections and the partial senate elections in the fall of 1979. The CHP government was replaced with Demirel’s minority Government. Under the term of this government, the issue of Presidential elections was added to the existing set of problems. The government failed to elect a president for months, from April to September 1980. The fact that the economic policies adopted on January 24, 1980 could only be implemented under an authoritarian regime and the desire to eliminate reactions from political parties, people and trade unions must be cited among the reasons behind the military intervention on September 12. Another facilitating factor for the military intervention on September 12 was the international context. It can be argued that the fact that anti-Western forces came to power in Iran and Afghanistan paved the way for the intervention in Turkey.

IV. CHP Anew …

A legal regulation introduced by the DYP- SHP coalition government in 1992 removed the legal obstacles preventing the political parties that were shut down in the wake of September 12 from reopening. Thus, CHP was reopened on September 9, 1992, 69 years later than its establishment on September 9, 1923. A CHP Convention was organized with the participation of the same delegates from before September 12 –from 1979—and it was decided that CHP would reopen under the same name and logo. Deniz Baykal was elected as the chairperson.
The reopening of CHP presented an important opportunity for the Turkish left wing to gather under CHP’s roof and for the left-wing knowledge and experience to be reconstructed and renewed.

CHP, 1994 Party Program and the New Left …

CHP resecured its place in the political arena with the understanding of the New Left and shaped its party policies according to this New Left understanding. In this period, a new approach was introduced to the understanding of economy in the socialist democratic world, and “an economy which not only distributes fairly but also produces” was aimed. In the national economy growing within a framework of a sustainable development perspective, an approach that envisages a fair distribution of income that takes all social segments into account was set forth. Moreover, in the Congress held in 1994, the 1976 Program was reconsidered by adapting it to the current needs of Turkey, and the Party's membership of the Socialist International was renewed. With the 1994 Program, concrete suggestions were developed for Turkey's social, cultural, economic and political problems, within the framework of the principles and values of contemporary social democracy and Turkey's unique conditions. Within this scope, the concept of the Social State which acts as the “protector of the orphans”, was brought to the fore. The main topics prominently covered and expanded upon in the program are as follows:
Providing free and high-quality education and health services,
Strengthening trade union movements and organization,
Ensuring an egalitarian income distribution,
Comprehensive implementation of anti-poverty policies,
Seeing cultural and ethnic diversity as wealth within the unitary state structure and ensuring its existence,
Resolution of the Kurdish issue,
Legislative changes required within the framework of EU membership,
Abolition of the death penalty and State Security Courts,
Removing the barriers preventing faculty members and university students from participating in active politics,
Ending the State of Emergency practices,
Removing barriers to freedom of thought and expression.
As can be seen from the priorities of the Program, CHP has been the main driving force behind the gains made in the field of rights and freedoms in recent years.
At that same period, CHP included in its program the removal of parliamentary immunity and limiting it to chair immunity and submitted motions in the Parliament for the prevention of corruption. It initiated action to contribute to the acceleration of the democratization process and remove the obstacles to gender equality. In this context, it made great efforts to implement the principle of tenancy by the entirety in marriage.
Always prioritizing human rights and freedoms, CHP drew attention to the war and ethnic cleansing practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As such, CHP Chairperson Deniz Baykal went to Bosnia and Herzegovina and brought what happened there to Turkey's agenda.
In the country, it followed policies against PKK terrorism which caused the death of many innocent people, stating that CHP stands by both the people of the region and the security forces fighting terrorism.
In the 1994 Local Elections, which was the first election it entered after its reopening, it had 4.6 percent of the votes and won the municipalities of 5 provinces.

Merging of SHP-CHP…

On February 18, 1995, SHP and CHP merged, and Hikmet Çetin was appointed as the Chairperson. 7 months later, Deniz Baykal was re-elected as the Chairperson at the Ordinary Convention held on September 9, 1995. CHP, which enabled the election decision by ending the coalition that SHP had maintained with DYP for 4.5 years, formed a new interim election government with DYP for 54 days until the election. The Kardak Crisis was successfully managed during this government period, which did not last even two months.

Process of February 18: “Neither a Compromise from Secularism, nor a coup”…

The period between 1996-1999 took its place in history as a painful period for Turkey. Because, during this period, the Welfare Party and the True Path Party coalition dragged Turkey into a very controversial process that ended with February 28. CHP played a very important role in this period, which went down in history as one of the periods in which the regime debates were the most intense. As the fifth ranking party in the parliament with 49 deputies, CHP made special efforts to get Turkey, which was stuck between regime concerns and coup rumors, out of this period without any interruption, and differentiated itself from the existing parties on both issues. CHP was also against those who made efforts to change the regime and abolish secularism, and openly opposed the coup aspirations. CHP took a very determined stance against the coup discourse and said, "No, they will hit their heads against the ballot box", to those who said, "You will hit your heads against tanks". After the Welfare Party – DYP Coalition Government resigned in June 1997, a three-party minority government was established. CHP again displayed an effective opposition at that time by contributing to this government at a level that would enable it to receive a vote of confidence.

Susurluk and Gangs: “The State is Besieged…”

In that same period, the party which opposed the gang-like structures within the state that emerged with the Susurluk accident most decisively was CHP. In fact, CHP’s observation on how the "State was besieged" made a year before Susurluk, when the DYP-SHP Coalition Government was dissolved, is of great importance in terms of demonstrating CHP's ability to diagnose what happened.

Transition to 8-Year Basic Education…

In the summer of 1997, a three-party minority government was formed. As soon as the government was formed, the Parliament went on recess. CHP spearheaded the enactment of the law on 8-Year Basic Education in August 1997, saying that the Parliament should not go on recess before the law is enacted. Thus, thanks to the persistent stance of CHP, the transition to 8-Year Basic Education, which is of great importance for our country, was achieved.

Türkbank Scandal and Corruption…

Corruption was once again one of the main discussion topics of that period. CHP applied in this period the resolute attitude it always displayed against corruption in an uncompromising and principled manner. When the Türkbank scandal emerged, CHP overthrew the government saying, "There should be no regime change, no coups, no corruption”. In the process when the head of the PKK terrorist organization Abdullah Öcalan was forced to leave Syria and was subsequently captured and brought to Turkey, the country was also preparing for the elections on April 18, 1999. In the elections held in this conjuncture, CHP remained below the 10% threshold and could not enter the parliament. DSP, which was founded after September 12, emerged as the first party in the elections under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit. The CHP entered the election campaign with the slogan: "We Shall Not Let the People be Oppressed, We Shall Not Allow the State to be Robbed". Attention was drawn to corruption and the failing banks. In those days, the funds that had been sunk were still at the level of 3.5 billion dollars. After the elections, with the crisis, this figure increased to 40 billion dollars.

Siphoning of Banks and the 2001 Crisis…

After the April 1999 Elections, the DSP-ANAP-MHP Coalition Government was established. The 2001 crisis broke out during this period, when CHP was not in the parliament. Siphoning of banks, which CHP persistently underlined in the previous years, became the most controversial issue of this period. Before the 2001 crisis, which was essentially a financial crisis, CHP Chairperson Deniz Baykal had frequently mentioned these issues before the elections and, along with the 2001 crisis, he was proved right. Especially when the banks started to fail one after another, it was understood that CHP, which had dissolved the government due to the Türkbank scandal, had been carrying out the right policies. During the crisis in 2001, CHP gained respect in the public eye, as the value of its policies was appreciated.

Deniz Baykal is the Chairperson again…

Having failed to pass the threshold, Chairperson Deniz Baykal resigned on April 21, 1999, and Altan Öymen became the Chairperson. However, when Altan Öymen could not get some of the decisions he wanted approved by the administration, he took the decision of an extraordinary convention in the autumn of 2000. Deniz Baykal was re-elected as the chairperson as a result of the Convention held on September 30, 2000. Baykal announced to CHP, which called him to duty, that he would take office to end the clashes in the party. He stated that CHP was going through the process of becoming a party and that he would work to complete this process. To this end, a number of new decisions were taken in the party, and legislative amendments were put into effect. Thus, the controversial periods came to an end.

The November 3, 2002 General Elections: CHP Main Opposition Party…

In the General Elections held on November 3, 2002, CHP re-entered the Parliament as the main opposition party with 19.4 percent of the vote. While all existing parties remained below the threshold in response to the economic crisis, a new era began with the AKP government. During this period, CHP entered into an effective struggle against the conservative circle which was gradually gaining influence within the Parliament. In this context, the economic, social, cultural and political achievements of the country, which were increasingly threatened by the AKP, were resolutely defended.
The main topics that should be emphasized in this context are as follows:
Protecting and guaranteeing the social and economic rights of labor,
Elimination of increasing disparities in income distribution,
Providing and protecting the right to free and quality education and health,
Combating corruption and bringing ethics to politics,
Ensuring the existence of cultural diversity,
Ending gender discrimination,
Protection of secularism.
During this period, the sensitivities of CHP on peace, freedom and justice were also reflected in its foreign policy stance. In fact, the stance taken by CHP on the Iraq War and the Memorandum on March 1 was compatible with the policies of the Socialist International and received great global support.

Iraq War and the March 1 Memorandum…

In the new era that started with the AKP Government, the most important issue on the agenda was the Iraq War. While the Iraq operation was under preparation, permission was requested for the operation to be carried out through Turkey. Had the necessary permission been granted, nearly 60 thousand foreign soldiers would have been deployed on our lands and would have carried out a military operation on our Eastern and Southeastern borders. In this process, known as the March 1 motion, AKP brought the permission request to the parliament. CHP, on the other hand, took a principled stance and said, "Turkey cannot be the front and headquarters of the war," and made great efforts to reject the motion. Indeed, the motion was rejected with the efforts of CHP. The rejection of the motion is a turning point for Turkey for it is difficult to predict what Turkey would have been through if it had been accepted.

Honorable Membership on Equal Conditions with the EU which Respects the Founding Values of the Republic…

During this period, the issue of determining a calendar for full membership to the European Union became one of the important agenda items. An open-ended proposal was made to Turkey by the EU and articles suggesting a special status were included. Moreover, although it was said that Cyprus cannot be a prerequisite, the condition of opening Turkey's ports and airports to the aircraft and ships of the Greek Cypriot side was set out. CHP advised the government not to accept a negotiation process under such conditions, but AKP accepted them.

Clean Politics, Honest Administration…

On the other hand, CHP, constantly issuing warnings about corruption, closely followed and opposed to the practices such as enriching partisans, transferring the assets of Turkey to acquaintances at a price well below their actual value under the name of privatization, all kinds of corruption in municipalities and zoning change decisions taken for the purpose of economic rent. It pointed out that corruption took place systematically thanks to parliamentary immunity and demanded a new regulation on this issue at every opportunity.

Economic Order in Favor of Production and Producers…

CHP drew attention to the practices that weakened the economy and called for the creation of a healthy economic mechanism, especially the elimination of the current account deficit problem. It stated that Turkey should bring industrialization back to its agenda and that it should set a productive economy as a primary target. It emphasized the negligence in agriculture and animal husbandry, the high input costs, and the measures to be taken.

University, Public Administration, the 2B Law…

This period has been a period when AKP, as the ruling party, specifically came at universities, especially the Council of Higher Education. While AKP wanted to transform universities through the new Higher Education Law, CHP resolutely opposed it. CHP prevented the changes that would shake Turkey's basic administrative model and evoke federative governments under the name of public administration reform by warning the population with a very effective opposition approach. The regulation known as 2B which could make a Constitutional amendment and threaten forest lands and cause them to be plundered, was prevented by the resolute opposition of CHP. When AKP did not accept the proposal to transfer the lands that lost their forest qualifications to those who use those lands, to the villagers, free of charge, CHP did not give its support, and the Constitutional amendment could not be made.

Presidential Crisis, 2007 General Elections and 2009 Local Elections

At the end of this period, debates concerning the Presidency took place. When CHP's proposal to elect a president by consensus was not accepted, Turkey called an election.

In the renewed elections on July 22, 2007, CHP entered the parliament receiving 20.9 percent of the votes and maintained its role as the Main Opposition party. It renewed its program and statute in December 2008 and continued its struggle as the defender of the secular Democratic Republic, human rights and freedoms, and Turkey's interests.

The organization, which is now officially known as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), had been the de facto coalition partner of the government during AKP rule, permeated the farthest corners of the state by using the government’s means and taken over the state. During this takeover, false evidence was produced in a series of conspiracy trials such as the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer Trials, and Kemalist, patriotic, revolutionary, democrat, intellectual, literary and military-civilian Turkish Armed Forces members were imprisoned, dismissed from duty, and the institutional structure of the state collapsed. Later, the process that started with the September 12, 2010 Constitutional referendum caused similar destruction in the judiciary. While AKP Chairperson Erdoğan declared himself the “prosecutor” of these trials at that time, CHP Chairperson Deniz Baykal stood by the patriots and said, “I am the solicitor of these trials”.

Having won 10 provincial and 3 metropolitan municipalities with 23.10% of the votes in the 2009 Local Elections, CHP demonstrated that it is the most important social democratic party in Turkey.

The AKP- FETÖ coalition put the 2010 constitutional amendments on its agenda in order to complete the takeover process in the judiciary, and CHP resolutely opposed these changes, first in the parliament and then during the referendum.

Backed by the power of the ruling party, FETÖ, who plotted against many segments of the society including members of the military, journalists, intellectuals, academics, etc., similarly intervened in the field of politics and organized cassette plots against MHP and CHP.

Prior to the constitutional referendum, this conspiracy attempt against the CHP Chairperson was repelled as a result of the Party's historical background, sense of responsibility and the determined stance of all party cadres, while the Chairperson Deniz Baykal stepped aside, the party organization prepared for the new term as one in the spirit of unity, togetherness and solidarity and elected Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as the Chairperson. After that, the party prepared more strongly and decisively for the new period without any interruptions in the struggle.

V. A New Era with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – CHP: Pioneering Party of the Struggle for Democracy

At the 33rd Ordinary Convention held on May 22, 2010, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, with a huge social and organizational support behind him, became the 7th chairperson of CHP by receiving 1189 valid votes out of 1197 votes cast.

Constitutional Referendum on September 12, 2010

On May 12 , 2010, a referendum was held on some constitutional amendments. As soon as Kılıçdaroğlu took office, CHP began its referendum campaign. CHP carried out an effective “no” campaign throughout Turkey and explained in detail the damage that the constitutional amendment would inflict on democracy and the independence of the judiciary. However, in the referendum held on September 12, 2010, the constitutional amendments were accepted with 57.88% of the votes.

2011 General Elections and the 34th Ordinary Convention

Kılıçdaroğlu's presidency created excitement in many different segments of the society, and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu responded to this excitement and also set a record by visiting all 81 provinces before the 2011 elections. In the general elections held in 2011, CHP achieved partial success by receiving 25.9 percent of the votes, increasing its votes compared to the previous elections.

The main event that marked the aftermath of the 2011 elections was the rejection of the release of Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, who were elected as MPs from the CHP lists and were imprisoned due to a plot organized against them. The CHP group decided not to take the oath in the Assembly unless this decision, which tarnished the democratic legitimacy, was corrected. After this affront to democracy, the protocol signed between CHP and AKP at the end of the negotiations emphasized that it was essential for all deputies to be present in the Parliament, and then, on July 11, 2011, the CHP deputies entered the Parliament with a banner that read "Sovereignty Belongs to the Nation" and took their oaths..

When Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu took office, he was thinking of realizing a fundamental party reform. He aimed to integrate the party organization with the wider public. In this direction, the CHP charter was renewed at the extraordinary convention held on March 30, 2012. Primary elections were made the priority method; the capability of central roll call was shrunk; and the power of the party organization was increased. At the same time, the representation power of the party was increased with the arrangements made in gender and youth quotas. It was rendered easier to become a candidate in congresses and conventions, and the open list was accepted as the priority method instead of the closed list in in-party elections.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was re-elected as the chairperson by unanimous vote, receiving all 1164 votes at the 34th Ordinary General Convention held on July 17-18, 2012.

At the Center of the Struggle for Democracy, Out There…

In this period, CHP did not settle for squeezing into the borders of the parliament in the struggle for democracy, but also carried the struggle outside.

Subsequent to the change in the regulation made by the AKP government on May 5, 2012, CHP opposed the attempts to descend the national holiday celebrations, and made efforts to celebrate the holidays together with the people all over the country. On October 29, 2010, the Chairperson was personally present at the alternative Republic Day celebrations in front of the first and second National Assemblies in Ankara Ulus, and personally led the demolition of the police barricade set up in front of the public. Newspapers dated October 30 took note of CHP's pioneering and determined stance in the social struggle and ran the headlines of "Gandhi of the Barricades".

After the tents of the Gezi Park protesters were burned in the Taksim Square and the square was closed off, Kılıçdaroğlu, canceling the previously planned Kadıköy rally on June 1, 2013, marched to Taksim, saying, "Our friends and all our deputies will be in Taksim," and then the square was reopened to the public. During the Gezi Resistance, CHP stood by the democratic reaction of the people and strongly supported the struggle for democracy in every field.

2014 Local Elections, Presidential Election and 18th Extraordinary Convention

In the 2014 local elections, CHP retained its previous share of votes, with 26.3 percent of the votes. In these elections, especially the irregularities in the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality elections became controversial. An application was made to the Supreme Election Council, the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, but the demands were rejected.

Following the decision to nominate a joint candidate with the Nationalist Movement Party, the former secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, was nominated in the 2014 Presidential elections.

After the defeat in the Presidential elections, the Chairperson called for an extraordinary convention, and at the 18th Extraordinary Convention held on September 5-6, 2014, he restored trust by getting the votes of most of the delegates.

2015 General Elections

In the general elections held on June 7, 2015, CHP determined its candidates by holding primary elections in 55 electoral districts. CHP received 25 percent of the votes in these elections, and AKP lost its numerical majority in the Assembly for the first time. Although CHP offered many constructive formulas including all kinds of compromises for the formation of a government in this period, the government could not be formed as a result of Erdoğan's efforts to prevent the establishment of a government, Bahçeli's support for this and Davutoğlu's failure to show the necessary determination.

Re-elections were held on November 1, 2015, with President Erdogan's decision to renew the elections without giving the mandate to form the government to another leader, contrary to customary practices. In the period between the elections on June 27 and on November 1, terrorism was heightened by a secret hand, mass murders were committed, and the people were taken to the polls for fear of terrorism.

In the elections, which were renewed on November 1, 2015, CHP received 25.3 percent of the votes while AKP increased its votes and came to power alone with 49 percent of the votes.

At the 35th Ordinary Convention held on January 16, 2016, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was elected as the chairperson for the 4th time as the only candidate.

July 15 Coup Attempt and its Aftermath

CHP stood by democratic legitimacy with a very clear stance against the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Chairperson Kılıçdaroğlu immediately declared that he was against the coup and instructed the deputies to go to the Assembly. CHP deputies were the first ones who went to the Assembly on the night of the coup attempt. In the following hours, the deputies who were in Ankara from other parties quickly arrived at the Assembly, and these deputies did not leave the Assembly under the bombings to protect the honor of the Assembly at the cost of their lives.

However, AKP disabled the parliament, which resisted the July 15 coup attempt, by declaring a state of emergency on July 20. CHP defined this process as a “civilian coup d'état” and named it the “July 20 Coup”. The Constitutional infrastructure of the de facto one-man regime which had been established with the July 20 Coup, was created with the constitutional amendment on April 16, 2017 with the support of MHP.

2017 Constitutional referendum and the one-man regime

In the referendum held on April 16, 2017, the legitimacy of which is controversial, the constitutional amendment was accepted with 51.4% of the votes, and a one-man regime replaced parliamentary democracy. Despite the intense warnings of CHP, the separation of powers was destroyed, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was weakened, all political powers were gathered in one person with this change, and the tradition and experience of 140 years of parliamentary democracy was thrown aside.

The referendum was held under the extraordinary circumstances brought by the July 20 Coup which had allowed the use of emergency powers to prevent free, equal and fair elections. In the face of the one-man regime that emerged after this referendum which has a fundamental legitimacy problem with the Supreme Election Council's validation of unstamped ballots, CHP, with its democratic and progressive mission since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, would lead the masses of people who claimed democracy, justice, rule of law and equality and would assume the leadership of the struggle for democracy in Turkey.

CHP, forming the backbone of the “no” campaign during the referendum, spearheaded the "say no gathering" that came together in the axis of democracy, justice and the rule of law, and this alliance went down in history as the first experience of democracy alliances that would grow and develop in the following years.

March for Justice: “Rights, Law, Justice”

The CHP leader, who opposed the rule of the country with unlawful statutory decrees in the state of emergency regime that started with the July 20 Coup, the jailing of journalists and academics on baseless accusations, the turn of the fight against FETÖ into a witch hunt against the opposition, the disregard for rights, law and justice by the political party in power, and the trampling of democracy, decided to hold a “March for Justice” in June 2017. The incident that triggered this decision was the unlawful sentencing of the CHP Istanbul deputy Enis Berberoğlu to twenty-five years in prison.

This march, started by Kılıçdaroğlu in Güvenpark, Ankara on June 15, 2017, grew with the participation of many individuals and groups demanding rights, law and justice, and was completed on July 9, 2017 in Maltepe, Istanbul. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of society supported this march, which is unique in the history of the Republic of Turkey. The slogan of this march, in which Kılıçdaroğlu covered a distance of 420 kilometers in 25 days, with the support of the people, was “Rights, Law, Justice”, which embraced the entire society.

The March of Justice ended with a giant rally embracing millions in Maltepe on July 9. Announcing a ten-item statement in his speech at the rally, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “We, the tens of thousands who have been marching since June 15, and the hundreds of thousands, millions gathered in Maltepe, Istanbul today, are calling out to Turkey and the world. We only want justice. We want justice for everyone, and not just for those who have come together here, not just for those who support us. We want our demand for ‘Rights, Law, Justice’, which we have been shouting out together with tens of thousands of people for 25 days, to be met before it's too late. We want the peacefulness of our March for Justice to prevail in politics and social life. Justice is a right. Justice is our right. We demand our rights.”

The Justice Convention

After the March for Justice, the Justice Convention was gathered in Çanakkale between August 26 and 29, 2017 and lasted for four days. The Convention brought together those who demand justice from all segments of the society and became the platform of their quest and unity.

Kılıçdaroğlu said in the closing speech of the Convention: “The March for Justice and the Justice Convention have already turned into a great Democracy, Justice and Peace Movement. This movement is the movement of the start line. This movement is a movement that is described not through differences, but through common points. Common points are the demand for democracy, justice and peace. There is room for everyone who has these demands.” With these words, he gave the signal of great democratic alliances to be established in the future.

2018 General Elections and the Nation Alliance

Before the 2018 General Elections, in the 36th Convention held in Ankara on February 3-4, 2018, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who received 790 votes out of 1237 valid votes, was re-elected as the chairperson.

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey decided to hold early elections on April 20, 2018, announcing that the presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on June 24, 2018 instead of November 3, 2019. Although there was no positive result from the deliberations of the opposition parties to produce a joint presidential candidate, there was agreement on making an alliance for the parliamentary elections.

The Nation Alliance was established on May 5, 2018, with the signing of the Inter-Party Election Cooperation Declaration by CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Good Party Leader Meral Akşener, the Felicity Party Leader Temel Karamollaoğlu and the Democratic Party Leader Gültekin Uysal. CHP nominated Muharrem Ince for the presidential election. In the first round of the Presidential election held on June 24, 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected as President, while CHP candidate Muharrem Ince came in second with 30.64 percent of the votes.

In the following process, the Nation Alliance, which obtained almost 34 percent of the votes throughout Turkey, evolved into an “alliance of democracy” under the leadership of CHP against the AKP - MHP government, which was becoming increasingly authoritarian, ignoring the law and dragging the country into an economic, political and social disaster.

2019 Local Elections: “Everything Will Be Alright”

The local elections held on March 31, 2019 are historical both in terms of being a turning point in Turkish politics in 2000s and because of the tremendous success of CHP.

The great gatherings on the axis of democracy, which started with the meeting in the "no" campaign in the 2017 referendum process, then continued with the March for Justice, the Justice Convention, and the 2018 elections, got even stronger in the 2019 local elections and had an effective result. At the local elections, which CHP and the Good Party entered in alliance, not only these two parties, but also the wider groups who wanted democracy, rights, law and justice, achieved a great reunion and success, overcoming fear and anxiety.

This election success of CHP, which won the municipal administration of 21 cities, 11 of which are metropolitans and 10 of which are provinces, including Istanbul, the heart of Turkey, which is ahead of many states in the world with its population and economic volume, Ankara, our capital city, and Antalya, one of our most important tourism centers, constituted a clear response of the voters in the largest, most populous and most active cities of Turkey to the authoritarian, unlawful and unjust political power, a demand for democracy and justice and one of the most important cornerstones of CHP's path to power. These results also showed that the democracy alliance, which was formed step by step against the one-man regime, is the right solution and should be kept alive.

Another reason why the 2019 Local Elections have an unforgettable place in our political history is the unlawful and groundless cancellation of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality election, won by the CHP candidate, and repeated. After this unlawful decision, which disregarded democracy, the Istanbul elections, which turned into a social issue rather than a mere municipality election, resulted in the renewed election of CHP candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu with an even bigger margin. The phrase, "Everything will be alright", which became the slogan of those who supported CHP and Ekrem İmamoğlu throughout the campaign, has turned into a symbol of the people's hope for the improvement of the political order, economic trend, inequalities, unlawfulness and injustices.

The broad-based political practice, which is the result of the party reform efforts aimed at reconsidering both the organizational structure and the way of doing politics, formed the basis of an important victory in the latest local elections against the one-man regime. With its determination and readiness to solve the problems in the fields of democracy, economy, education, social peace and foreign policy, which it sees as Turkey’s five main problems, CHP will complete its journey to power with the support of larger groups and will continue to be Turkey's hope.