Turkish opposition leader helps shape the unlikely alliance to challenge Erdogan

Over the years, Kemal Kilidaroglu, the leader of the Turkish opposition, has been ridiculed for his modest behavior and his failure to make progress in election after election. Recently, however, the leaders of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) have discovered a bold taste.

On Friday, he uninvitedly appeared at the country’s statistical agency and accused the agency of manipulating inflation data at the order of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After being refused to attend the meeting, he stood outside the locked gate and severely warned the country’s civil servants to “do the right thing.”

As the country is caught in economic turmoil, currency plummeting, and double-digit inflation, Kilidaroglu was encouraged by opinion polls, which showed that the total number of votes he helped establish the opposition alliance was higher than that of Erdogan and his company. The votes of allies. The loose coalition believes that it can overthrow the president in a national vote scheduled for 2023, but it can be called in advance.

“We have… a government that has severely lost its ability to govern,” Kilicdaroglu, a 72-year-old former bureaucrat, told the Financial Times, who has led the Center for Health Protection for more than a decade. “A large part of society has accepted the idea that these people are going out.”

Kilicdaroglu is not the clear leader of the impossible alliance of opposition nationalists, Kurds, leftists, rightists, secularists, and religious conservatives.

The Health Protection Center under his leadership was established by the country’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and has long been regarded as the standard bearer of secularism, bringing it into conflict with Turkey’s conservatives. The Health Protection Center claims to be a social democrat and also has a strong nationalist spirit that has alienated millions of Kurds in the country.

But after years of failing to diminish Erdogan’s reputation, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has ruled for nearly two decades, and Kilicdaroglu has become the structure of an unlikely organization that now challenges Erdogan’s control of power. division.

The alliance started in 2017, when rival parties concealed their differences and campaigned together. They voted against the referendum on the abolition of the country’s parliamentary system and the consolidation of the president’s control.

Their side was defeated by a narrow margin, but this campaign laid the foundation for further cooperation. Two years later, opposition unity candidates won mayoral elections in Istanbul and Ankara, ending Erdogan and his allies’ 25-year rule of Turkey’s two largest cities. Since then, Kilicdaroglu has acted as an intermediary with six other parties.

The president tried to break the alliance by using his ideological fault line. But so far, the group has united and called on Turkey to restore its parliamentary system and pay attention to the economic situation.

Inflation rate has exceeded 20%. Coupled with the depreciation of the Turkish lira, the Turkish lira has depreciated by nearly half against the US dollar this year, which has eroded the reputation of AKP. According to opinion polls, the party’s vote share is now hovering above 30%-below the peak of nearly 50% in the 2011 election.

“The unemployment rate is high, the cost of living is high, and people cannot make ends meet,” said Kilicdaroglu, who has repeatedly called for early elections so that the public can comment on Erdogan’s economic management. “People are looking for a way out. Of course, the way out is through politics.”

Analysts warn that more and more Authoritarian If he loses the vote, Erdogan may not leave quietly.They pointed to the Istanbul mayoral campaign in 2019, when the president cited fraud and cancelled the result after opposition challengers Ekrem Imamolu won.

Shoppers in Istanbul Bazaar
As ordinary Turks face rising prices and unemployment, opposition figures are paying attention to the government’s handling of the economy ©Francisco Seco/AP

Kilicdaroglu eliminated this concern. He pointed out that the public’s strong opposition to Erdogan’s decision to re-host the Istanbul election led to the opposition’s overwhelming advantage in the second vote. He said that if defeated, the president will have to step down peacefully. “Istanbul is a trial run,” he said. “He doesn’t want to leave power, but we will let him out.”

Erdogan’s supporters are also fearless about the victory of the opposition. He said: “We will not govern this country with malice, anger or revenge.”

Aware of the poor reputation of the Health Protection Center among conservatives, Kilikdaloglu last month asked for forgiveness for the party’s past mistakes, such as opposing women wearing hijabs.

Despite this proposal, a recent survey by the Turkish polling agency Metropoll found that nearly 70% of AKP voters, many of whom are devout Muslims, feel about the prospects of a government composed of CHP and its right-wing nationalist IYI party allies. fear.

Some key policies of the Center for Health Protection are also controversial internationally, including the promise of reconciliation with Syrian President Bashar Assad and the repatriation of 3.6 million Syrian refugees to Turkey.

Analysts warned that the opposition could also get into trouble. Some inside the CHP worry that Kilicdaroglu will consider himself the best candidate to challenge the presidency, although opinion polls show that he is not as popular as Ankara Mayor Imamoglu or Mansur Yavas.

Kilicdaroglu refused to rule out the possibility of a presidential campaign. But for the time being, he said that the opposition should focus on the country’s economic issues. “The kitchen is on fire,” he said. “Everyone is desperately looking for an escape route.”

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