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CUMHURIYET HALK PARTISI. A major political organisation inTurkeyfor sixty years the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party or CHP) was founded some weeks before the proclamation of the Republic (II September 1923). After the military coup of 198o, its activities were stopped together with those of other political parties by the junta; it was formally terminated on 16 October 1982 by decision of the National Security Council.

The CHP held dictatorial single-party rule until 1946 and continued in power under a multiparty system until 1950, when it lost in the free general elections. Following the military intervention of 196o, the CHP led several coalition governments (three during 1961-1965 and one in 1974) and again became the major partner in a coalition during 1978-1979. The present SHP (Social Democratic People’s Party) and DSP (Democratic Leftist Party) are to some extent heirs to the CHP legacy. Upon the granting of permission to reopen previously banned political parties in 1992, a new CHP was established; however, it is just another pretender to the heritage, rather than being the original resurrected.

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

The DRAAR was transformed into the Grand National Assembly (GNA) early in the war, and a First Group was formed in the assembly to secure party discipline. After the military victory, Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk, the leader of the nationalist struggle, who was both commander-in-chief and the president of the GNA as well as the head of the First Group, reorganized the latter into a political party, utilizing the slogan “Popular Sovereignity”; he called this the People’s Party.

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

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

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

Under Ismet Inonu, the second president of the Republic and the CHP, the party underwent an important change. It became a “democratic” opposition party after losing in the freely held general elections of 1950. Thereafter it polled around a third of the votes cast in each election. Beginning in the mid- 1960s it became further radicalized and adopted a left-of-center course. The general secretary of the party, Bulent Ecevit, who severely opposed the military coup of 12 March 1971, toppled Ismet Inonu and controlled the party in an extraordinary convention in 1972, advocating a democratic leftist platform. The metamorphosis had already softened the party’s previous strict laicism, making concessions to the religious demands of the people. Indeed, in 1974 it even formed a coalition government with the fundamentalist National Salvation Party.

During its last years, CHP suffered difficulties in both preserving the Kemalist legacy and transforming the party along social democratic lines. This dilemma continues to affect its successor parties, whose platforms are only augmented by the addition of an economic liberalism in place of the traditional statism.

[See also Kemalism;Turkey; and the biography of Ataturk.]


A satisfactory account of the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi does not yet exist. Among general treatments, Bernard Lewis’s Emergence of Modern Turkey, 2d ed. (London and New York, 1968), is still unsurpassed. Ezel Kural Shaw and Stanford J. Shaw’s History of theOttoman Empireand Modern Turkey, vol. 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808-1975 (Cambridge and New York, 1977), covers the period, but contains factual and interpretational defects. For the transformation of the political system in the latter half of the 1940s, see Kemal Karpat’sTurkey’s Politics: Transition to a Multi-Party System (Princeton, 1959). In Turkish, my T.C.’nde Tek-Parti Yonetiminin Kurulmast 1923-1931 (Ankara, 1981) deals with the formative years. Hikmet Bila’s CHP Tarihi 1919-1979 (Ankara, 1979), written from a partisan viewpoint, is comprehensive but rather superficial. Two other general works in English that have recently appeared are Feroz Ahmad’s The Making of Modern Turkey (New York, 1993); and Erik J. Ziircher’s Turkey, A Modern History (London, 1993)

Other political parties have been better studied in English. As they provide many insights into the history of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi as well, the following may be consulted: Erik J. Zurcher, Political Opposition in the Early Turkish Republic: The Progressive Republican Party, 1924-2S (Leiden, 1991); Walter Weiker, Political Tutelage and Democracy in Turkey: The Free Parry and Its Aftermath (Leiden, 1973); and Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (Glencoe, Ill., 1958), which includes an overoptimistic evaluation of the Demokrat Parti.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/cumhuriyet-halk-partisi/

  • writerPosted On: November 6, 2012
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