03/06/2023, 19.11
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Turkey’s opposition trying to rebuild unity (and seek Kurdish votes) after internal rift

Over the weekend, the leader of the right-wing nationalist İYİ party left the "Table of Six" over the candidacy of CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu. In his place, İYİ leader Meral Akşener wants either the mayor of Istanbul or that of Ankara. The “Table” put off a meeting to pick their joint candidate.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The weekend saw the first rift in Turkey’s joint opposition, the so-called Table of Six, which seeks to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 14 May elections set to take place despite last month’s earthquake.

The İYİ (Good) Party, a right-wing nationalist party, has rejected Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), as a joint candidate; the opposition is set to make an announcement to this effect shortly.

İYİ wants to focus on the charismatic mayors of Turkey’s two main cities, i.e. someone who can challenge and beat a "government" candidate, like Ekrem İmamoğlu in Istanbul (currently on trial that some describe as political) or Mansur Yavaş in Ankara.

Hitherto, the "Table of Six" included the main opposition party, the CHP (founded by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), İYİ (Good) Party, the Democracy and Progress (Deva) party; Gelecek (Future) Party, Saadet (Happiness), and the Democratic Party (DP)

Recent polls indicate that, despite criticism over their handling of the devastating earthquake of 6 February, Erdogan and the AKP – allied with the nationalist MHP – are still in the lead, favoured precisely by divisions within the opposition and its lack of a strong leader.

This morning, the mayors of Ankara, Turkey’s political capital, and Istanbul, its business capital, visited the İYİ’s headquarters to meet its leader, Meral Akşener, and try to mend fences.

The opposition coalition, effectively now reduced to five, is waiting to see the outcome of the mayors’ mission; for this reason, they delayed by an hour a meeting scheduled for 2 pm today designed to announce their joint candidate.

The İYİ leader immediately rejected the idea of backing the CHP’s leader, focusing on one of the two mayors, who quickly responded by reiterating their support for Kılıçdaroğlu in order to avoid any further show of divisions.

The latest polls suggest that both İmamoğlu and Yavaş have a very good chance of beating the incumbent president, in power for over twenty years.

If either mayor ran, they risk exposing themselves to criticism and end up losing both the presidential race and control of their city at a time when most Turks are still reeling from the earthquake.

Akşener's latest offer is to have the two mayors appointed as “executive vice presidential candidates” with ample room to act and exercise power.

Conversely, the departure of the right-wing nationalist party would open the door to a greater appeal to Kurdish voters, whose numbers could be decisive in the presidential poll.

Aydın Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, said the he was not surprised by Meral Akşener's departure from the coalition, given her previous "resistance" to working with Kurds.

In the past, she served as interior minister and was a long-time member of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AKP's current coalition partner.

Moreover, some believe that she is opposed to Kılıçdaroğlu because he is an Alevi Kurd.

The opposition coalition’s new interest in Kurdish votes, but not in the main Kurdish party, the HDP, is evinced by last Saturday’s statement addressed to Turkey’s Kurdish community.

“We will continue on our way without excluding any member of our 85 million people,” a CHP statement read.

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