Nonresident Senior Fellow Howard Eissenstat Quoted in Al Monitor

On December 14, 2017, nonresident senior fellow Howard Eissenstat was quoted in an article by Ayla Jean Yackley for Al Monitor entitled, “Turkish prosecutor wants opposition leader’s immunity scrapped.”

Prosecuting the head of a party established nearly a century ago by the founder of the modern secular republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, would be unprecedented. Some observers believe it unlikely, in part because it could backfire on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“I don’t think that there’s any question that jailing Kilicdaroglu would be a bad move for Erdogan,” said Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey researcher at St. Lawrence University and a senior nonresident fellow at the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy.

He told Al-Monitor, “The CHP serves a useful function for the AKP. It gives the party a clear domestic foil, and it preserves the appearance of a competitive democracy. In that sense, the CHP leadership would be much more dangerous to the AKP in prison than it is in parliament.”


Kilicdaroglu did briefly galvanize a fractured opposition over the summer, when he undertook a 260-mile “Justice March,” from Ankara to Istanbul, to protest the jailing of tens of thousands of Turks, including journalists, politicians and academics, in the post-coup clampdown.

Kilicdaroglu has failed to sustain that momentum, however, and other opposition factions, including those disappointed with the lack of a more robust response from him over the imprisonment of HDP lawmakers, may not now rally to his defense.

“The CHP is clearly at risk of being hanged on scaffolding that it helped build,” Eissenstat said, referring to the party’s partial backing of the immunity measure last year. “I think Kilicdaroglu knew at the time that his party might be targeted eventually, but feared the opposition was already dying by 10,000 cuts.”

Read the full article here.