The coalition of opposition parties in Turkey has put forward Kemal Kilicdaroglu as a candidate for the presidential election. On May 14, the 74-year-old opposition leader will take on the current president Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu represents a bloc of six opposition parties, which under the name of the Nation Alliance are running together in the elections. It is a coalition of conservative, liberal and nationalist parties.
When announcing his candidacy, the presidential candidate said that he strives for peace. “Our sole purpose is to lead the country to times of prosperity, peace and happiness.”
‘Restore parliamentary democracy’
The Nation Alliance promises in its party program to reverse many of the policies Erdogan has taken in recent years. At the top is restoration of parliamentary democracy instead of the current system in which the president has virtually all power.
As part of this, the Alliance wants to reinstate a prime minister, a position Erdogan abolished in 2017. In addition, the president should play an impartial role, in which he stands above the parties. In addition, he may not veto legislation or come up with decrees.
Since 2010, Kilicdaroglu has chaired the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), the largest party in the coalition. As opposition leader, he is one of Erdogan’s most outspoken opponents. The former accountant presents himself as a secular reformer against Erdogan’s conservative religious policies.
Kilicdaroglu wants to take a more pro-Western course: he wants to resume the process of accession to the European Union. He is, however, against the reception of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Turkey signed an agreement with the EU on this in 2016.
The opposition leader strongly criticizes the constitution, which was introduced by Erdogan after a referendum in 2017. The constitution gave the president more power and limited the influence of parliament. In 2017, Kilicdaroglu organized the March for Justice against this.
Kilicdaroglu has been mentioned as a favorite for the nomination for some time, but not everyone is convinced of his qualities. For example, there is doubt whether he is charismatic enough to take on Erdogan. Also, since taking over the party leadership, the CHP has lost several times to Erdogan’s AK party.
Break in coalition
There was also opposition to his nomination within the coalition. Last Friday, one of the opposition parties left the bloc. Meral Aksener of the nationalist IYI party refused to support Kilicdaroglu. According to her, the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara have a better chance: they are better known to the general public and do better in some polls.
The rest of the coalition thinks this is too risky: for example, a legal process is underway against the mayor of Istanbul, which means that he may not be eligible for election in May. Both mayors have already expressed their support for Kilicdaroglu. Aksener rejoined the coalition through a compromise: If Kilicdaroglu wins, the mayors will both become vice presidents.
Not yet unambiguous
The differences of opinion within the coalition are, according to critics, a sign of weakness. The cooperation started slowly, leaving a clear strategy behind. For example, the opposition was unable to comment on difficult political issues for Erdogan, such as high inflation and emergency aid after the earthquakes.
Erdogan himself also points to the bloc’s internal problems. “We said months ago this would happen,” he said on Saturday, after IYI left the coalition. “They sat down, they talked, and they parted—as I predicted.”
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