Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Turkish politician

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu cropped.jpg
Kılıçdaroğlu in 2015
Leader of the Main Opposition
Assumed office
22 May 2010
PresidentAbdullah Gül
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime MinisterRecep Tayyip Erdoğan
Ahmet Davutoğlu
Binali Yıldırım
Preceded byDeniz Baykal
7th Chairman of the Republican People's Party
Assumed office
22 May 2010
Preceded byDeniz Baykal
Vice President of Socialist International
In office
21 August 2012 – 13 December 2014
Country Turkey
Preceded byDeniz Baykal
Succeeded byUmut Oran
Member of the Grand National Assembly
Assumed office
18 November 2002
Constituencyİstanbul (II) (2002, 2007, 2011)
İzmir (II) (Jun 2015, Nov 2015, 2018)
Personal details
Kemal Karabulut

(1948-12-17) 17 December 1948 (age 73)
Ballıca, Nazımiye, Tunceli, Turkey
Political party Republican People's Party (after 1999)
Other political
Democratic Left Party[1] (until 1999)
SpouseSelvi Kılıçdaroğlu
Alma materAnkara Academy of Economics and Commercial Sciences (Gazi University)

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (pronounced [ceˈmal kɯɫɯtʃˈdaɾoːɫu] (listen); born Kemal Karabulut,[2] 17 December 1948) is a Turkish economist, retired civil servant and social democratic 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 31 August 2012.[3]

After Deniz Baykal 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 was unable to unseat the ruling AKP as of 2021.

Early life

Kemal Karabulut was born on 17 December 1948 in the 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]

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 Insurance Institution (Turkish: Sosyal Sigortalar Kurumu, abbreviated SSK).[6][8]

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

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu retired from the Social Insurance Institution in January 1999. Kılıçdaroğlu taught at 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.[9]

Early political career

Member of Parliament

Kılıçdaroğlu during a public appearance in Ankara (12 April 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).[10] However, he did not succeed in this venture 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.[11]

Kılıçdaroğlu lost the election with 37% of the votes against Topbaş's 44.7%.

Election to the CHP leadership

Long-time leader of the CHP, Deniz Baykal, resigned on 10 May 2010 following a video tape scandal. Kılıçdaroğlu announced his candidacy for the position on 17 May, 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.[12] But after Kılıçdaroğlu received the support of 77 of his party's 81 provincial chairpersons,[13] Baykal decided not to run for re-election.[14]

For a candidacy to become official, CHP by-laws require the support of 20% of convention delegates.[15] At the party convention, which started on 22 May 2010, Kılıçdaroğlu's candidacy received the signatures of 1,246 out of the 1,250 delegates, which set a new record for the CHP.[16]

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).[17][18]

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 begun 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] Among the candidates were former CHP leader Deniz Baykal and arrested Ergenekon suspects such as Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal.[22]

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."[23]

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.[citation needed]

2016 lawsuit

In January 2016, he was prosecuted for insulting President Erdoğan against Kılıçdaroğlu making statements that implied the President is a dictator after Kılıçdaroğlu spoke out against the arrest of over 20 Academics for Peace who signed a petition condemning a military crackdown in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.[24][25] What Kılıçdaroğlu said was: "Academics who express their opinions have been detained one by one on instructions given by a so-called dictator"[24]

Constitutional referendum

After the 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum, which significantly expanded President Erdoğan's powers, Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP filed a court appeal against a decision by Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to accept unstampted ballots. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that the YSK decision may be appealed to the ECHR, but members of the AKP government have said that neither ECHR nor Turkey's Constitutional Court have any jurisdiction over the YSK decision. Kılıçdaroğlu said: "In 2014 [the Constitutional Court] said ‘Elections are canceled if there is no seal on ballot papers or envelopes.’[ ... ]The YSK can't express an opinion above the will of the parliament,[ ... ]If the Constitutional Court rejects our application, we will regard the changes as illegitimate. There is also the ECHR. If necessary, we will take the case there.”[26][27]


Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the European Court of Human Rights for rejecting a petition from a Turkish teacher who applied to the ECHR claiming that he was wrongly dismissed from his position during the 2016-17 Turkish purges. The ECHR said that plaintiffs should apply to Turkey's State of Emergency Investigation Commission before applying to the Court. Kılıçdaroğlu replied: "Don’t you know what is going on in Turkey? Which commission are you talking about? People are dying in prisons. We waited five months to just appoint members."[28]

Policy on Syrians and Other

Kılıçdaroğlu has flashed the sign of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish ultranationalist organization with connections to the country's MHP (Nationalist Movement Party).[29] It has been suggested that this is to compete with right-wing coalitions between the MHP and the AKP (Justice and Development Party).[30][31] Kılıçdaroğlu has explicitly supported the deportation of Syrian refugees from Turkey, citing economic strain on citizens and the alleged desire of humans to live in their region of birth.[32][33]

March for Justice

On 15 June 2017, Kılıçdaroğlu started the 450 km March for Justice from Ankara to Istanbul in protest of the arrest of Enis Berberoğlu following the 2016 coup d'état attempt. Initially only joined by a few hundred protesters,[34] the march grew to the thousands.[35] On 9 July 2017, a final rally was held in Istanbul with hundreds of thousands of people.[36]

2018 Elections

In the 2018 elections, Kılıçdaroğlu as leader of the CHP and İyi Parti leader Meral Akşener established Nation Alliance (Millet İtifakı) as an electoral alliance in response to the AKP and MHP's People's Alliance (Cumhur İtifakı). Nation Alliance was soon joined by the Felicity Party and Democrat Parties.

2019 Municipal Election

In 2019, Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener continued their parties' cooperation in the 2019 municipal election, capturing the mayoralties of Istanbul and Ankara from the AKP after a quarter of a century of control by Islamist parties.

Personal life

According to İdris Gürsoy, his family belonged to the Cebeligiller clan of the Kureyşan tribe, but Kılıçdaroğlu avoided mentioning any specific ethnicity. During the 1950s, his father changed their family name from Karabulut to Kılıçdaroğlu, since all the people in the village they lived in had the same family name.[6] Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu married Selvi Gündüz in 1974.[37] Selvi is also his cousin, has a Zaza-Kurdish background and has openly voiced support for the women politicians of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP).[38] 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,[39][38] however Kılıçdaroğlu did not 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?".[40]

He speaks Turkish and French. In addition, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has four published books and many articles.[41]

See also


  1. ^ a b "DSP'nin yıldızları". Sabah (in Turkish). 9 January 1999. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  2. ^ Bildirici, Faruk (27 June 2010). "Kılıçdaroğlu Kemal Bey'i anlatıyor". Hürriyet. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  3. ^ "TRT World".
  4. ^ Delphine Strauss (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. ^ a b c d e f g h i "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. ^ Party Leader Biography Archived 4 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine,, Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  9. ^ Party Leader Biography Archived 4 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Devlet boşaldı".
  11. ^ "CHP'nin İstanbul adayı Kılıçdaroğlu". CNN Turk (in Turkish). 23 January 2009.
  12. ^ "Kılıçdaroğlu announcement splits Turkish opposition party". Hürriyet Daily News. 17 May 2010.
  13. ^ "Kılıçdaroğlu receives broad support from party base". Hürriyet Daily News. 18 May 2010.
  14. ^ Habib Güler (21 May 2010). "Baykal announces he will not run as debate heats up over new CHP". Today's Zaman. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014.
  15. ^ "CHP delegates convene to elect new leader". Today's Zaman. 22 May 2010. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  16. ^ "CHP'de tarihi kurultay". Habertürk (in Turkish). 22 May 2010.
  17. ^ İzgi Güngör (22 May 2010). "Kılıçdaroğlu wins CHP leadership, challenges Turkish PM 'Mr. Recep'". Hürriyet Daily News.
  18. ^ "Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu new leader of opposition Party CHP". National Turk. 22 May 2010.
  19. ^ Head, Jonathan (11 September 2010). "Why Turkey's Constitutional Referendum Matters". BBC News.
  20. ^ "CHP most assertive in search for candidates ahead of June elections". Sunday's Zaman. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  21. ^ "Main Turkish opposition receives more than 3,000 candidate applications". Hürriyet Daily News. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Haberal becomes member of CHP for candidacy in polls". Today's Zaman. 12 March 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  23. ^ Villelabeitia, Ibon (12 April 2011). "Trailing in polls, Turkey's opposition seeks new face". Reuters. Ankara. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  24. ^ a b "Erdoğan sues Turkey's main opposition leader over dictator remark". Reuters. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2017. An Ankara protester also opened an investigation into whether Kılıçdaroğlu's were "openly insulting" to the President.
  25. ^ "Turkish opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu is re-elected despite recent poll defeat". The Japan Times Online. 17 January 2016. ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  26. ^ "Turkish gov"t calls time on referendum result debate, as opposition vows further objections - POLITICS". Hürriyet Daily News | LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Turkish opposition appeals referendum on Erdoğan powers". Reuters. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Main opposition CHP leader slams Euro court for rejecting post-coup appeals - POLITICS". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Leader of the Republican People's Party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu..." Getty Images. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  30. ^ Okuyan, Kemal (14 April 2017). "Opinions on the next day of Turkey's referendum". Sol International. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  31. ^ SigmaLive. "Yildirim makes 'Grey wolves' symbol in Turkish parliament | News". Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  32. ^ "Main opposition CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu promised to send nearly 2 million Syrian refugees back to their hometowns if CHP wins elections - Mosaic Initiative". Mosaic Initiative. 24 April 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  33. ^ "If one person makes mistake, the whole country will have to pay for it: CHP leader - POLITICS". Hürriyet Daily News | LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  34. ^ Shaheen, Kareem (15 June 2017). "Turkey's opposition begins 250-mile protest march over MP's imprisonment". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  35. ^ "Thousands Turn Out For March For Justice In Turkey". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  36. ^ "Huge crowd rallies in Istanbul against Turkey's post-coup crackdown". Reuters. 9 July 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  37. ^ "İşte 'Gandi Kemal'in yaşam hikayesi". Hürriyet (in Turkish). 24 May 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  38. ^ a b Zaman, Amberin (23 May 2022). "Will Turkish opposition leader's Alevi faith be hindrance at polls? - Al-Monitor: The Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  39. ^ Turkey’s opposition: A new Kemal: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu gives new hope to the Turkish opposition, The Economist, 27 May 2010, Ankara.
  40. ^ "Alevi'yim ne var bunda". CNNTurk (in Turkish). 17 June 2011.
  41. ^ "TÜRKİYE BÜYÜK MİLLET MECLİSİ". 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2022.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
  • Official website (in Turkish)
  • Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's biography at TBMM's website (in Turkish)
  • Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Twitter
  • Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Instagram
  • A Long March for Justice in Turkey (Gastbeitrag, 7 July 2017)
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Republican People's Party
Political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Opposition
  • v
  • t
  • e
Before 1960
Authority control Edit this at Wikidata
  • ISNI
    • 1
  • VIAF
    • 1
  • WorldCat
National libraries
  • Germany
  • United States
  • Faceted Application of Subject Terminology