The six-party opposition coalition in Turkey decided on Monday, March 6, to field Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as its joint presidential candidate to face Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming national elections.
Considered a social democrat, Kılıçdaroğlu (74) is the leader of the main opposition party in Turkey, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Negotiations to decide on a joint presidential candidate have been ongoing for months now. Last week, there was disagreement between the coalition’s second-largest party, Good (İyi), and the other five parties, led by the CHP, over who the candidate would be. As per the reports, İyi had insisted that, given their popularity, either the mayors of Ankara or Istanbul should be fielded as the joint presidential candidate.
Apart from the CHP and İyi, the ‘table of six,’ as the coalition is popularly known, comprises the Democracy and Progress (DEVA) party, the Gelecek (Future) party, the Saadet (Felicity) party, and the Democratic party.
Both parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey were scheduled to be held on June 18. However, Erdoğan announced that they will be held earlier, on May 14.
Erdoğan is facing what some consider his most difficult election in over two decades in power (first as prime minister from 2003 and then as president since 2014), due to the prolonged economic suffering of Turkey’s people due to high inflation, exacerbated by the devastation caused by last month’s earthquake.
Most polls have put the coalition of six parties jointly ahead of the coalition of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ultra nationalist ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in the parliamentary elections. However, in the presidential elections, the polls are not yet clear, and the six-party coalition may need support from the pro-Kurdish and left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to defeat Erdoğan.
HDP, which has faced persistent persecution at the hands of the AKP government, is currently the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament.
According to reports, HDP has shown its inclination to conditionally support the six party coalition, following the announcement of Kılıçdaroğlu as its joint candidate.
One of HDP’s leaders, Mithat Sancar, said on Monday: “Our clear expectation is a transition for a strong democracy. If we can agree on fundamental principles, we may support [Kılıçdaroğlu] in presidential elections,” Al-Jazeera reported.
If elected to power, the ‘table of six’ has promised to revert back to a parliamentary form of government by reducing the powers of the president. In 2018, Erdoğan had introduced constitutional amendments that established a presidential system in Turkey and abolished the post of the prime minister.