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Turkey’s CHP elects new leader

24 mai 2010

CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party, elected an anti-corruption crusader as its new leader Saturday, after the former chairman resigned this month over a sex scandal. Kemal Kilicdaroglu — dubbed « Gandhi Kemal » for his calm demeanor and resemblance to the Indian pacifist leader  stood unopposed for the leadership of the pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), after gaining in popularity for digging up dirt on ruling party politicians.

As head of the opposition, he pledged to take the party founded by Turkey’s revered leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk into power and to fight poverty, unemployment and corruption. « We will introduce a political ethics law, » the 61-year-old former head of Turkey’s social security agency said after being formally elected at the party’s congress. « Racketeers, pillagers and swindlers have no place in parliament. »

CHP  has struggled in offering itself as an alternative to the Islamic-oriented ruling party, often appearing to be staid, authoritarian and out of step with its social-democratic grass-roots. It suffered a blow earlier this month when former chairman Deniz Baykal was allegedly shown in a video having an affair with a female lawmaker who used to be his aide. The video was said to be secretly taped, and was circulated on the Internet. Baykal stepped down less than two weeks ago, after leading the party for nearly two decades and winning much support among secular voters opposed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s party.

Kilicdaroglu, a retired bureaucrat, led an association dedicated to fighting state corruption before winning a parliament seat in 2002. He has since exposed documents alleging corruption that forced the resignation of two senior figures from Erdogan‘s party. CHP  is Turkey’s oldest political party, founded by Ataturk in 1923.

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