Turkiye: Opposition alliance witnesses split amid imminent presidential elections

The Turkish Iyi (Good) Party announced Friday its withdrawal from the main opposition alliance at the backdrop of differences on selection of a unified nominee to compete in coming presidential elections.

The selection of a candidate to face Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the elections scheduled for 14 May has led to a divide in the ranks of the main opposition alliance consisting of six parties on Friday.

In a news conference, the Iyi Party stressed its rejection of the proposal to push the leader of the Republican People’s Party to be a joint opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential elections against the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Iyi Party leader Meral Aksener said that the other five parties in the opposition alliance agreed to nominate the leader of the Republican People’s Party, Kamal Kilicdaroglu, for the presidency.

After withdrawal of the Iyi Party, the six-party table, that had consisted of six opposition parties, has become a 5-party alliance. In Aksener’s view, that table no longer represents the will of the people.

“The Table of Six has lost the ability to represent the will of the nation,” Aksener said

In a televised speech, Aksener said she believed that the candidacy of Kilicdaroglu, which is likely to be officially announced on Monday, is the result of “small calculations” that contradict Turkiye’s public interest.

Aksener stressed that her party would not “give in” to pressure to agree to Kilicdaroglu. She proposed nominating one of the two mayors of Istanbul and Ankara instead, both of whom are from the CHP.

She added that the alliance of the main opposition parties “Is no longer a platform that enables us to consult on potential candidates but has become an office working to approve one candidate,” calling on Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas to run for elections. After a meeting with officials of her party, Aksener said: “Our nation loves you both, our nation wants you both.”

However, the mayor of Ankara, Mansour Yavas, voiced his support for the party’s chair, Kilicdaroglu, stressing that he was ready to perform his “duty” if he was asked by the alliance. The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, also confirmed his support for the CHP chair’s candidacy.

Erdogan last Wednesday confirmed that the presidential and legislative elections would be held on 14 May as scheduled, despite the devastating earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria on 6 February.

The leaders of the six parties held a meeting on Thursday that lasted over five hours to agree on a candidate, and issued a statement signed by all, including Aksener, stating: “We have reached an understanding regarding our joint presidential candidate.”

The statement added that the leaders would meet again on Monday to announce their final decision. However, after the Thursday meeting, Aksener went to her party’s headquarters in Ankara and held a meeting with its leaders that went into the early hours of the morning.

The opposition in Turkiye had failed in previous national elections to pose a real challenge to President Erdogan.

After its success in winning the presidency of major municipalities, such as Istanbul and Ankara, snatching it from the ruling Justice and Development Party in the local elections in 2019, the opposition has since attempted to strengthen its cooperation.

A divided opposition would weaken opportunity to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming elections.

The German news agency reported that the selection of Kilicdaroglu as a candidate to face Erdogan in the presidential elections has led to a split in the ranks of the opposition’s six-party alliance, after withdrawal of Aksener.