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Analysis

Division in Anti-Erdogan Coalition May Grant Embattled President Another Chance

Monday 6 March 2023
Division in Anti-Erdogan Coalition May Grant Embattled President Another Chance

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Turkish Opposition Alliance Splits over Anti-Erdogan Candidate

Alwaght- As Turkey nears the presidential elections, the opposition coalition is pushing forward an agenda to name a candidate to take on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This year marks the 100th anniversary of establishment of modern Turkey and the 13th president is set to be elected a month earlier than scheduled. 

The presidential and parliamentary elections are set for May 14. Despite the recent deadly earthquake in the south of the country with more than 45,000 people dead, Erdogan government emphasized that it was determined to hold elections on the scheduled date. However, Turkey’s six-party opposition coalition is divided over naming a candidate of consensus to participate in the election. 

This six-party coalition was formed in April last year to challenge Erdogan, and its members Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, Meral Aksener, the leader of the iYi (Good) Party, Temel Karamollaoglu, the leader of the Saadat Party, Ali Babacan, the leader of the Democracy and Progress Party, Ahmed Davutoğlu, the leader of the Future Party, and Gultekin Uysal, the leader of the Democrat Party, announced their goal to defeat Erdogan. 

Finally, the coalition unofficially named Kilicdaroglu as its candidate on Thursday, one year after its formation, but it seems that this choice has caused a split in this alliance. 

Split in six-party coalition 

Despite naming Kilicdaroglu as the opposition candidate, the Reuters has reported that the right-wing iYi Party on Friday pulled out of the opposition alliance saying that it did not approve of Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the biggest opposition party, as the candidate because he cannot make a strong rival to Erdogan. 

In her speech at the party’s headquarters in Ankara, Aksner said that the five other parties in the coalition had agreed on Kilicdaroglu, but that iYi Party, as the second largest party in the six-party alliance, will not yield to pressures to accept him as a candidate. 

She named Mayer of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu and Mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavas, who are both from Republican People’s Party, as the proper candidates, adding that according to polls, they can win the elections by a wide margin. 

Referring to her party’s exit from the coalition, Aksner said that the six-party alliance lost its power to reflect popular demands in its decisions. She asked the Istanbul and Ankara mayors to exercise their “duty” towards people and accept the candidacy offers. 

Coalition of conflicting parties 

Perhaps one reason behind the division in this opposition coalition is the existence of conflicting tendencies among its constituents. Kilicdaroglu is personally Kurdish and of Alawite faith, but his political identity and his party are based on secularism, Kemalism, and the principles of social democracy. But his main and close partner, Aksner is a center-right nationalist. Another figure of this group, Karamollaoglu is one of the most important pupils of the late Necmettin Erbakan and an Islamist. He was the only party leader to protest the visit of the Israeli President Issac Herzog to Turkey. 

There is another figure in this coalition: Ali Babacan, an experienced economist and diplomat. Although he and his family have a long record and high credit among the conservative Islamist community, his party is a follower of liberalism and free market. Davutoglu is another conservative with neo-Ottoman political ideology. With these conflicting tendencies, since the beginning, it was clear that they would have a difficult job naming an agreed-upon candidate. 

On the other hand, despite the fact that the Republican People’s Party is 100 years old and the same age as the Republic of Turkey and is expected to give the coalition a serious weight, according to polls, the six-party Nation Alliance has so far failed to secure grey and silent votes. 

However, Kilicdaroglu in a video posted on Twitter talked about his intention to open the opposition coalition to other parties, adding: “We should invite all shadows of Turkey to this [six-party] table. It should expand. Nobody can stop it.” 

Erdogan status ahead of elections 

Erdogan is under fire for his government’s poor economic performance and relief operations in the last month deadly earthquake that left tens of thousands of people killed, something putting him face to face with an unprecedented challenge to his path to his 20th anniversary in rule. Since months ago, Kilicdaroglu has been preparing himself to challenge Erdogan in the decisive election. 

But two other figures, Imamoglu and Yavas are more popular than Kilicdaroglu, according to the poll results. Aksner, a former interior minister whose party is the second largest opposition party, prefers these two mayors over Kilicdaroglu. During his 13-year leadership of his party, Kilicdaroglu has never won a general vote. 

Welcoming this division, a member of the ruling party tweeted: “12 months, 12 meetings, but he [Kilicdaroglu] has not managed to persuade his closet allies and mayors. How can he persuade people to vote for him?” 

In these conditions, division in the six-party alliance can play into the hands of Erdogan to beat his rivals in the upcoming election despite his poor record in recent years. 

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Turkey Elections Opposition Erdogan Kilicdaroglu Earthquake

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Details of the funeral ceremony of the president and his companions

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