Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
Leader of the Main Opposition
Assumed office
22 May 2010
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ahmet Davutoğlu
Preceded by Deniz Baykal
Chairman of the Republican People's Party
Assumed office
22 May 2010
Preceded by Deniz Baykal
Vice President of Socialist International
In office
21 August 2012  13 December 2014
President George Papandreou
Country  Turkey
Preceded by Deniz Baykal
Succeeded by Umut Oran
Member of the Grand National Assembly
Assumed office
18 November 2002
Constituency İstanbul (II) (2002, 2007, 2011)
İzmir (II) (Jun 2015, Nov 2015)
Personal details
Born (1948-12-17) 17 December 1948
Ballıca, Nazımiye, Tunceli, Turkey
Political party Democratic Left Party[1]
Republican People's Party
Spouse(s) Selvi Gündüz
Children Aslı
Residence Ankara
Alma mater Kadir Has University
Profession Bureaucrat
Religion Alevi Islam[2]
Website Official site

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (pronounced [ceˈmal kɯɫɯtʃˈdaɾoːɫu]; born 17 December 1948) is a Turkish social democrat politician. He is leader of the CHP ("Republican People's Party") and has been Leader of the Main Opposition in Turkey since 2010. He served as a Member of Parliament for İstanbul's second electoral district from 2002 to 2015 and as an MP for İzmir's second electoral district as of 7 June 2015.

Before entering politics, Kılıçdaroğlu was a civil servant and served as the President of the Social Insurance Institution (SSK) from 1992 to 1996 and again from 1997 to 1999. He was elected to Parliament in the 2002 general election and became the CHP's parliamentary group leader. In the 2009 local elections, he was nominated as the CHP candidate for the Mayor of İstanbul and lost to the AKP ("Justice and Development Party") with 37% of the vote, where the candidate from the AKP got 44.71% of the votes. He was elected deputy chairman of the Socialist International on August 31, 2012.[3]

After Deniz Baykal (born 1938) resigned as the party's leader in 2010, Kılıçdaroğlu announced his candidacy and was unanimously elected unopposed as the leader of the CHP. He was seen as likely to breathe new life into the CHP.[4] Although the CHP saw a subsequent increase in its share of the vote, it didn't win any elections.

Early life

Kılıçdaroğlu was born on December 17, 1948 in Ballıca village of Nazımiye district in Tunceli Province, eastern Turkey[5] to Kamer, a clerk-recorder of deeds and his wife Yemuş. He was the fourth of seven children.[6] His father was among thousands of exiled Alevis following the failed Dersim Rebellion.[7]

According to İdris Gürsoy, his family belonged to the Cebeligiller clan of the Kureyşan tribe and Zaza[8] origin, but Kılıçdaroğlu said his background is Turkmen.[9] His father changed their family name in the 1950s from originally Karabulut to Kılıçdaroğlu since all the people in the village they lived in had the same family name.[6]

Kemal continued his primary and secondary education in various places like Erciş, Tunceli, Genç and Elazığ. He was educated in economics at the Ankara Academy of Economics and Commercial Sciences (now Gazi University), from which he graduated in 1971. During his youth days, he earned his living by selling goods.[6]

Professional career

After university, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu entered the Ministry of Finance as a junior account specialist in 1971. He was later promoted to accountant and was sent to France for additional professional training. In 1983, he was appointed deputy director general of the Revenues Department in the same ministry. At that time he worked closely with Prime Minister Turgut Özal. In 1991, Kılıçdaroğlu became director-general of the Social Security Organization for Artisans and Self-Employed (Bağ-Kur). The following year he was appointed director-general of the Social Security Organization (SSK).[6][10]

In 1994, Kılıçdaroğlu was named "Civil Servant of the Year" by the weekly periodical Ekonomik Trend.[6]

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu retired from the Social Security Organization in January 1999. Kılıçdaroğlu taught at the Hacettepe University and chaired the Specialized Commission on the Informal Economy within the framework of the preparation of the Eighth Five-Year Development Plan. He also acted as a member of the Executive Board of İş Bank.[11]

Early political career

Member of Parliament

Kılıçdaroğlu during a public appearance in Ankara (April 12, 2011)

He retired from bureaucracy in 1999 and tried to enter politics from within Bülent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party (DSP). Kılıçdaroğlu was often referred to as the "star of the DSP".[1] It was claimed that he would be a DSP candidate in the upcoming 1999 general election (in which the DSP came first).[12] However, he did not succeed in this venture, though, as he could not get on the party's candidates' list. Instead, during his chairmanship of an association that aimed to protect citizens' tax payments, he was invited by the leader of the CHP Deniz Baykal to join his party. Kılıçdaroğlu accepted the invitation.[6]

Following the 2002 general election, he entered the parliament as a deputy from Istanbul. In the 2007 general election, he was re-elected to parliament. He became deputy speaker of his party's parliamentary group.[6]

Kılıçdaroğlu's efforts to uncover malpractice among high-ranking Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians carried him to headlines in the Turkish media. Two deputy chairmen of the ruling AKP, Şaban Dişli and Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, resigned from their respective positions in the party following television debates with Kılıçdaroğlu. Furthermore, he publicly accused the AKP-affiliated Mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, of complicity in a corruption scandal relating to the "Deniz Feneri" charity based in Germany.[6]

2009 İstanbul mayoral candidate

Kılıçdaroğlu was announced as the CHP's mayoral candidate for the 2009 local elections by the party leader Deniz Baykal on 22 January 2009. Kılıçdaroğlu announced that he would run his campaign based on clean politics, vowing to open cases of corruption against the serving incumbent, AKP mayor Kadir Topbaş. Claiming that he would work for the workers of İstanbul, he also challenged Topbaş to a televised live debate.[13]

In the election, Kılıçdaroğlu was beaten by Topbaş with 37% of the votes to Topbaş's 44.7%.

Election to the CHP leadership

Long-time leader of the CHP, Deniz Baykal, resigned on May 10, 2010 following a video tape scandal. Kılıçdaroğlu announced his candidacy for the position on May 17, five days before an upcoming party convention. According to reports, the party was divided over the leadership issue, with its Central Executive Board insisting that Baykal retake the position.[14] But after Kılıçdaroğlu received the support of 77 of his party's 81 provincial chairpersons,[15] Baykal decided not to run for re-election.[16]

For a candidacy to become official, CHP by-laws require the support of 20% of convention delegates.[17] At the party convention, which started on May 22, 2010, Kılıçdaroğlu's candidacy received the signatures of 1,246 out of the 1,250 delegates, which set a new record for the CHP.[18]

In view of this overwhelming support, the presidium of the party convention decided to move the election, initially scheduled for Sunday, forward to Saturday. As now expected, Kılıçdaroğlu was elected as party chairman. The election was unanimous, with 1,189 votes (not counting eight votes that were found to be invalid).[19][20]

Leader of the Opposition

Kılıçdaroğlu took office as the Leader of the Main Opposition on 22 May 2010 by virtue of leading the second largest political party in the Grand National Assembly. Many media commentators and speculators predicted that Kılıçdaroğlu would breathe new life into the CHP after consecutive election defeats under Baykal's leadership.

2010 constitutional referendum

Kılıçdaroğlu's first campaign as the CHP leader was the constitutional referendum held on 12 September 2010. Although the initial voting process in Parliament (that would determine the proposals that were voted on in the subsequent referendum) had began under Baykal's leadership, Kılıçdaroğlu employed a tactic of boycotting the parliamentary process. Since a constitutional reform proposal required 330 votes to be sent to a referendum (the governing AKP, which had submitted the proposals, held 336 seats), the parliamentary approval of all of the government's constitutional reforms was mathematically possible regardless of how the CHP voted. Thus, the AKP's proposed constitutional reforms, which included changes to the Turkish Judiciary, were sent for approval in a referendum on 12 September 2010.

Kılıçdaroğlu not only campaigned for a 'no' vote against the proposals, but also sent the Parliamentary voting process to court over alleged technical irregularities. The CHP subsequently sent the proposals to court over alleged violations of the separation of powers in the proposed changes. the Constitutional Court eventually ruled against the CHP. Kılıçdaroğlu, along with members of minor opposition parties, argued that the proposed changes are an attempt to politicise the judiciary and further increase the control of the AKP over neutral state institutions. The referendum proposals were nonetheless accepted by 57.9% of voters, with 42.1% voting against.[21]

2011 general election

Kılıçdaroğlu on a visit to Washington D.C., December 2013

The 2011 general election was the first general election in which Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu participated as the leader of Republican People's Party (CHP). The former CHP leader Deniz Baykal resigned from his post in May 2010 and left the CHP with 26% of the votes, according to opinion polls. Kılıçdaroğlu announced that he would resign from his post if he was not successful in the 2011 elections. He did not provide details as to what his criteria for success were.[22] Over 3,500 people applied to run for the main opposition party in the June elections. Male candidates paid 3,000 Turkish Liras to submit an application; female candidates paid 2,000 while those with disabilities paid 500 liras.[23] Among the candidates were former CHP leader Deniz Baykal and arrested Ergenekon suspects such as Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal.[24]

The party held primary elections in 29 provinces. Making a clean break with the past, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu left his mark on the Republican People's Party's 435-candidate list, leaving off 78 current deputies as he sought to redefine and reposition the main opposition. The CHP's candidate list also included 11 politicians who were formerly part of center-right parties, such as the Motherland Party, the True Path Party and the Turkey Party. Center-right voters gravitated toward the AKP when these other parties virtually collapsed after the 2002 elections. Key party figures that did not make it on to the list, criticised the CHP for making "a shift in axis."[25]

June 2015 general election

Kılıçdaroğlu announcing the CHP manifesto for the June 2015 general election.

The June 2015 general election was the second general election which Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu participated as the leader of CHP. The party won 11.5 million votes (24.95%) and finished with 132 elected Members of Parliament, a decrease of 3 since the 2011 general election. The decrease of 1.03% compared to their 2011 result (25.98%) was attributed to CHP voters voting tactically for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to ensure that they surpassed the 10% election threshold. No opinion poll (apart from one dubious poll released in March 2014) showed the CHP ahead of the AKP between 2011 and 2015.

Family life

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu married Selvi Gündüz[26] (unofficially Sevim) in 1974. The couple has a son, Kerem, two daughters, Aslı and Zeynep, and a granddaughter from Aslı's marriage.[6] Some journals denoted his Alevi identity,[27] however Kılıçdaroğlu didn't make a statement about his religious belief for a long time. In July 2011, he said "I always refused to do politics on ethnic identities and religion. I am an Alevi. Since when is it a crime to be Alevi in this country?".[28]


  1. 1 2 "DSP'nin yıldızları" (in Turkish). Sabah. 9 January 1999. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  2. "Alevi'yim ne var bunda". Habertürk. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  4. Strauss, Delphine (21 May 2011). "Turkey's Gandhi chosen to lead opposition". The Financial Times.
  5. Yalçın, Soner (23 May 2010). "Kılıçdaroğlu hakkında bilinmeyen tek gerçek". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Nazımiyeli ailenin okuyan tek çocuğu". Radikal (in Turkish). 23 May 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  7. "The Turkish opposition: Gandhi's rise". The Economist. 28 April 2011.
  8. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Kürt değil, Zaza kökenli. (Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is not Kurd, but Zaza descent.), İdris Gürsoy, Aleviler Kılıçdaroğlu’nu nereye taşıyacak?, Aksyon, 13 September 2010.
  9. Faruk Bildirici, "Citizen Kılıçdaroğlu: Turkish opposition chief in his own words", 'Hürriyet Daily News, 11 July 2010, retrieved 11 January 2011.
  10. Party Leader Biography,, retrieved 11 January 2011.
  11. Party Leader Biography, retrieved 02 February 2012.
  13. "CHP'nin İstanbul adayı Kılıçdaroğlu". CNN Turk (in Turkish). 23 January 2009.
  14. "Kılıçdaroğlu announcement splits Turkish opposition party". Hürriyet Daily News. May 17, 2010.
  15. "Kılıçdaroğlu receives broad support from party base". Hürriyet Daily News. May 18, 2010.
  16. Habib Güler (May 21, 2010). "Baykal announces he will not run as debate heats up over new CHP". Today's Zaman.
  17. "CHP delegates convene to elect new leader". Today's Zaman. May 22, 2010.
  18. "CHP'de tarihi kurultay". Habertürk (in Turkish). May 22, 2010.
  19. İzgi Güngör (May 22, 2010). "Kılıçdaroğlu wins CHP leadership, challenges Turkish PM 'Mr. Recep'". Hürriyet Daily News.
  20. "Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu new leader of opposition Party CHP". National Turk. May 22, 2010.
  21. Head, Jonathan (11 September 2010). "Why Turkey's Constitutional Referendum Matters". BBC News.
  22. "CHP most assertive in search for candidates ahead of June elections". Sunday's Zaman. January 25, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  23. "Main Turkish opposition receives more than 3,000 candidate applications". Hürriyet Daily News. March 23, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2011.
  24. "Haberal becomes member of CHP for candidacy in polls". Today's Zaman. March 19, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  25. Villelabeitia, Ibon (April 12, 2011). "Trailing in polls, Turkey's opposition seeks new face". Ankara: Reuters. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  26. "İşte 'Gandi Kemal'in yaşam hikayesi" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  27. Turkey’s opposition: A new Kemal: Kemal Kilicdaroglu gives new hope to the Turkish opposition, by The Economist, dated May 27th 2010, ANKARA.
  28. "Alevi'yim ne var bunda". CNNTurk (in Turkish). June 17, 2011.
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