Turkish opposition coalition splits over May 14 presidential candidate

Turkish opposition coalition splits over May 14 presidential candidate

Turkey’s right-of-center IYI Party has left the opposition alliance against President Tayyip Erdogan as the bloc failed to agree on a candidate for the May 14 presidential election.

Erdogan has called a series of elections for May 14 despite criticism of his response to February’s earthquakes in southeast Turkey and Syria, which killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey.

The leader of IYI, the second-biggest party in the bloc, Meral Aksener told the media that the other five opposition parties in the bloc had proposed Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as the presidential candidate.

The CHP has the largest voter base in the opposition alliance followed by IYI.

Opposition parties have failed in previous general elections to challenge Erdogan, who has held power for more than 20 years. The alliance has cooperated more closely since taking control of Istanbul, Ankara and other cities from Erdogan’s AK Party in municipal elections in 2019.

Aksener said she proposed the Istanbul and Ankara mayors, who are both from the CHP, citing polling that places them favourably against Erdogan.

Erdogan’s popularity has fallen amid a cost of living crisis before the chaotic earthquake response. He is also blamed for creating an inflation crisis by defying the rules of economic orthodoxy with interest rates.

Aksener said the bloc had “lost the ability to reflect the will of the people in its decisions”.

“It is no longer a platform through which potential candidates can be discussed but a table that works to rubber-stamp a single candidate,” she said at the party’s Ankara headquarters.

Aksener said Turkish voters wanted Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu or Ankara’s mayor Mansur Yavas to do their duty and step up as candidates.

In a social media video posted in response, Kilicdaroglu said: “Political games, impoliteness and Erdogan-type discourses have no place at this table,” apparently in reference to Aksener.

Yavas and Imamoglu both expressed their loyalty to the CHP and Kilicdaroglu.

Atilla Yesilada, an analyst at GlobalSource Partners, said: “Clearly this unexpected development hands Erdogan and [his nationalist ally] Bahceli a tremendous psychological victory, as well as reinforcing the belief that the opposition is incapable of dealing with the challenges of governing Turkey.”

Meral Aksener. Picture credit: Turkcewiki

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