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Opinion A new voice from the opposition in Turkey

Selin Sayek Boke, the spokesperson for Turkey’s largest opposition group, outlined in an interview a broad program her party is crafting to challenge the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Boke, 44, a former economics professor who took her doctorate from Duke, is one of the new voices in the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, Turkey’s sometimes moribund center-left opposition party. She said her party’s challenge to Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) includes a push for parliamentary commissions to investigate the terrorism and ethnic strife that have wracked Turkey over the past year, and a new effort to work with civil-society groups, journalists and others the government has attacked.

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“This is Turkey’s battle for democracy, and if the CHP can manage to bring the alienated segments of society together in a broad popular coalition, we could bring the AKP’s decade-long rule to an end,” she said. She explained that she was speaking out to make “the CHP’s case against growing authoritarianism that is polarizing the country.”

Boke, who is also the CHP’s deputy leader, said her party was seeking to defuse internal strife with Kurdish militants, which at times over the past few months has seemed to some U.S. officials to be veering toward civil war. She said the CHP wanted to sponsor negotiations and what she called a “third way” outreach to Kurds that could provide “a lasting resolution of the problem.”

CHP representatives have also tried to defend journalists imprisoned or silenced under Erdogan, she said. Several of the party’s members of parliament have met with two Cumhuriyet journalists charged by the government with inciting terrorism, she said. The party had also supported Zaman, a newspaper that had supported the conservative Islamist movement headed by Fethullah Gulen, which was taken over by the government last month.

The CHP currently controls about 25 percent of the Turkish parliament, far too small a minority, even in coalition with other opposition parties, to outvote Erdogan’s party. “They’ve blocked us out,” she said, explaining that the CHP is proposing alternate strategies that involve commissions and civil-society groups.

Boke was in Washington for a conference on new fiscal strategies for economies that are slowing, such as Turkey’s. She spoke in English, by telephone, and supplemented her remarks later in an email.