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Nickname: Gandhi Kemal

Kader Kadem | 06:59 | 0 Comments
Born in 1948 in the Nazımiye district of Tunceli, an area where the population is predominantly ethnic Kurds, Kılıçdaroğlu would never have forecast that he could one day become the chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

Nor would his family and friends. His parents were from modest Anatolian families. His father was an ordinary state employee at the land registry office with limited income to raise their seven children.

Kemal was the only one in the family who graduated from university Kılıçdaroğlu’s family comes from a local tribe called the Kureyşan, known as a holy kin group among the Alevis. The tribe is considered to have descended from Caliph Ali and Kılıçdaroğlu does not deny this. This also brings clues about his dignified character and cool and tolerant approach to almost every issue, even in strained times.

The reflections of this culture and philosophy of Alevi belief surely can be found in Kılıçdaroğlu’s identity.Beginning his career as a certified public accountant at the Finance Ministry in 1971, Kılıçdaroğlu learned how being an honest state employee helps a worker earn promotions. He still describes himself as “a former public accountant,” in a move to emphasize the qualifications of this specific bureaucratic post.

“There was a consensus that I was an honest civil servant in the public opinion. I think this profile of being disciplined and a decent civil servant is an outcome of my career as a public accountant. Because I value every public accountant as someone who fully obeys the rules, is chaste and is honest,” he once said in an interview in the past.

In 1992, he moved to one of the country’s leading civil service giants, the Social Security Institution and later became its president. He won the title “Civil Servant of the Year” in 1994 from a monthly magazine “Ekonomik Trend.” After his retirement from the SSK in 1999 he first started to lecture at Hacettepe University and at the same time became a member of the İş Bankası from the ranks of the CHP upon Deniz Baykal’s invitation. The CHP has a quota of three seats on the bank’s board.

This relation with Baykal let him enter Parliament in 2002 and made him one of the most influential figures of the party.

A significant attribute that has characterized him during his CHP days has been his firm opposition to corruption. He often appeared before the media disclosing some very important documents on alleged corruption cases. Basing his corruption claims on documents made his cases so strong that some leading figures of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, had to leave their posts. Şaban Dişli and Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, deputy heads of the AKP, were well known victims of Kılıçdaroğlu-led anti-corruption campaigns. He has shaken the credibility of Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and introduced some very important findings about the connections between the perpetrators of the Germany-based Lighthouse e.V. donation scandal with some AKP officials. All of what he has done has increased his trustworthy status among the public and among his colleagues.

That record of him was proven during last year’s local elections when he ran as his party’s Istanbul mayoral candidate. Some say his approach of touching others, his ability to easily communicate with people, even those from different political parties, his coolness and calm political behavior helped the CHP increase its votes during last year’s local elections compared to the elections in 2004. It was around the 2009 elections that people started call him “Gandhi Kemal,” both for his physical resemblance and for his peaceful political demeanor.

He has not used his Kurdish ethnic background politically, but there were moments when he could not close his eyes. When Onur Öymen, deputy head of the CHP, made a serious gaffe on the Dersim massacre by seeming to approve the security forces’ disproportional use of force against civilians in 1938, it was Kılıçdaroğlu who stood up first to make him correct his statement.

Another in-house disagreement occurred when Kılıçdaroğlu suggested a general amnesty that would include the members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as part of ongoing efforts to end the terrorism problem. He was challenged by Baykal and other leading figures, who made him step back. Apart from these incidents, Kılıçdaroğlu has been in line with the party’s fundamental policies, including the Kurdish question. However, one could expect a changing line on this issue under Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership.

“This job [party leadership] will not bring prosperity to me or my family,” he said right after he announced his candidacy. Married to Selvi, his cousin, with three kids and a granddaughter, Kılıçdaroğlu enjoys a calm and comfortable family life. When he was once asked, “What would drive you crazy in life?” he replied: “Well, nothing can drive me crazy. You may be well sure of it.”

True to his nickname, Kılıçdaroğlu is walking determinedly for the top post of the country’s main opposition party
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