Turkish opposition leader helps shape unlikely alliance to challenge Erdogan

For several years, Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu suffered ridicule for his mild-mannered manner and failure to make inroads at election after election. Recently, however, the head of the Republican politician Individuals’s celebration (CHP) has actually found a taste for boldness.

On Friday, he showed up unwanted at the nation’s analytical company and implicated it of controling inflation information under the orders of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president. Standing outside its locked gates after being declined a conference, he starkly alerted the nation’s civil servants to “do the right thing”.

With the nation grasped by financial chaos, a plunging currency and double-digit inflation, Kilicdaroglu has actually been buoyed by surveys revealing that the combined votes of the opposition alliance that he assisted to construct are greater than those of Erdogan and his allies. The loose union is encouraged that it might fall the president in a nationwide vote set up for 2023, however which might be called previously.

“We have . . . a government that has seriously lost its capacity to govern,” Kilicdaroglu, a 72-year-old previous bureaucrat who has actually led the CHP for more than a years, informed the Financial Times. “A large segment of society has embraced the idea that these people are on their way out.”

Kilicdaroglu is not an apparent leader of the opposition’s unlikely alliance of nationalists, Kurds, leftists, rightwingers, secularists and spiritual conservatives.

The CHP that he leads was developed by the nation’s starting dad Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and has long been viewed as a basic bearer for secularism, bringing it into dispute with Turkey’s conservatives. Explaining itself as social democrat, the CHP likewise has actually a strong nationalist vein that has pushed away the nation’s countless Kurds.

However after years of stopping working to damage the appeal of Erdogan, whose Justice and Advancement celebration (AKP) has actually ruled for practically twenty years, Kilicdaroglu has actually become the designer of the not likely organizing now challenging Erdogan’s grip on power.

The union started in 2017 when competing celebrations buried their distinctions to project together for a “no” vote in that year’s referendum on eliminating the nation’s parliamentary system and combining the president’s control.

Their side directly lost, however the project laid the ground for additional cooperation. This flourished 2 years later on when the opposition’s unity prospects won mayoral elections in Istanbul and Ankara, ending 25 years of supremacy by Erdogan and his allies over Turkey’s 2 most significant cities. Ever since, Kilicdaroglu has actually taken a function as a go-between with 6 other celebrations.

The president has actually tried to break the alliance by exploiting its ideological faultlines. However the grouping has actually up until now hung together by joining behind a require Turkey to go back to a parliamentary system and by concentrating on the state of the economy.

Inflation that has actually risen above 20 per cent, combined with the collapse in the Turkish lira, which has actually lost nearly half of its value against the dollar this year, have contributed to an erosion of the AKP’s popularity. The party’s vote share now hovers somewhere above 30 percent, according to polling — down from a peak of almost 50 per cent in the 2011 elections.

“There’s huge unemployment, life is expensive, people cannot make ends meet,” said Kilicdaroglu, who has actually repeatedly called for early elections so that the public can issue their verdict on Erdogan’s economic management. “People are looking for a way out. Naturally, the way out is through politics.”

Analysts warn that the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan might not go quietly if he lost the vote. They point to the Istanbul mayoral contest in 2019, when the president cited fraud and cancelled the results after opposition challenger Ekrem Imamoglu won.

Shoppers at an Istanbul bazaar
Opposition figures are focusing on the government’s handling of the economy as ordinary Turks face rising prices and unemployment © Francisco Seco/AP

Kilicdaroglu waves away such concerns. Pointing to the public backlash versus Erdogan’s decision to rerun the Istanbul contest, which resulted in an opposition landslide in the second vote, he said the president would have actually to leave power peacefully if defeated. “Istanbul was a trial run,” he said. “He will not want to leave power, but we will get him out.” 

Erdogan’s supporters also had nothing to fear from an opposition victory, he said: “We will not run the country with malice, anger and revenge.”

Conscious of the CHP’s troubled reputation among conservatives, Kilicdaroglu last month made a plea for forgiveness for the celebration’s past mistakes, such as its opposition to women wearing the headscarf.

Despite such overtures, a recent survey by the Turkish pollster Metropoll found that almost 70 percent of AKP voters, many of them devout Muslims, were fearful of the prospect of a government comprised of the CHP and its allies from the rightwing nationalist IYI party.

Some of the CHP’s key policies are also contentious internationally, including a pledge to reconcile with Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, and return Turkey’s 3.6m Syrian refugees.

The opposition could also trip itself up, analysts warn. Some within the CHP worry that Kilicdaroglu will suggest himself as the best candidate to challenge Erdogan for the presidency, despite ballot showing that he would be less popular than Imamoglu or Mansur Yavas, Ankara’s mayor.

Kilicdaroglu refuses to rule out the prospect of a presidential run. But for now, he stated, the opposition should focus on the country’s financial problems. “There’s a fire in the kitchen,” he stated. “Everyone is desperately looking for an escape route.”

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.