All the variables are now at play.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is determined to keep its feet on the gas pedal, pushing the “solution process” further. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to have loosened up with regard to his deadline for the commission’s work in drafting a new constitution, indicating that it may be extended until the end of April.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is on “standby,” ready to send its co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, together with BDP deputy Pervin Buldan, to meet with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is also to meet with the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) team and his brother, Mehmet.
The fourth judicial reform package is almost ready and it is highly likely that the latest version may lead to the release of jailed PKK members, and maybe even those from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Meanwhile, after the European Commission’s open endorsement of the negotiation process with the PKK, France declared that it was unblocking an EU chapter, paving the way to a positive mood change in Turkey’s negotiations on EU accession.
So, even if there are growing doubts about whether or not Erdoğan is serious about the solution process and healing the wounds of what is widely seen as a judicial wrongdoing, a farewell to arms, a democratic constitution and an accelerated process towards full EU membership are now linked to each other.
But, one variable, in particular, and a key one in the entite constellation, is unsettling.
It is the CHP.
Now we know that the vacuum that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the troubled leader of the CHP, left because of his ambiguous behavior on the issue, is quickly being filled by his predecessor, Deniz Baykal.
Baykal’s speech, drawing loud applause at a CHP group meeting, was a reminder of the Turkish political classes’ well-known discourse, filled with paranoia and conspiracy theories.
“Foreign powers are forcing us to abandon the nation-state and adopt a presidential system. There are attempts to abolish references to the Turkish nation in the new constitution. Once the [concept of] nation is removed, who will uphold sovereignty? The ethnic groups? There is no single country in the world that has handed over its sovereignty to ethnic groups. The pro-ethnic groups, the exploiters of religion, the liberals and the prime minister, who favors a presidential system, want this.”
One does not really have to analyze the inconsistencies, contradictions and conspiratorial mindset behind such a statement. Forget the content. It is all about Baykal’s shrewd, well-calculated timing to inflict harm on the CHP leader; his carving inside an already torn party to launch a new fight; widen the divide.
Kılıçdaroğlu was asked a simple question after Baykal’s move: “Where do you stand on the İmralı [peace] process?” His response was a lucid sign of defensiveness, “Nowhere.” Also responding with a “no” to a follow-up question asking if talking to Öcalan was necessary, he retreated to his earlier position — from June 2012 — that “there must be a commission in Parliament and another one outside consisting of wise men.”
By doing this, Kılıçdaroğlu can be said to have withdrawn his support for the peace process altogether. With these words we have seen what was inevitable: The main opposition, whose clear stand — this or that — was needed to see a beneficial resolution for the process, is now sinking deeper into a crisis, which will have to be resolved through a confrontation.
It is not that the “old guard” — the profoundly conservative flank of ultra-Kemalists — of the CHP has become optimistic about winning over those who want to modernize the party. No. The main goal, as it was between 2007-2009, is to paralyze the CHP to a degree that it will make it as difficult as possible for the AKP to push for a new constitution.
It is a new “crisis policy” driven by the old establishment which is more about its fears of a new democratic order than a (semi-) presidential system debate. In short, the CHP is being forced to play its old role as a stumbling block, to remain part of the problem than a solution. It is brewing itself for a new period of high tension.