Before presidential elections: opposition alliance against Erdogan reunited

A few days after a rift in Turkey, an alliance against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reunited for the time being.

Before presidential elections: opposition alliance against Erdogan reunited

A few days after a rift in Turkey, an alliance against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reunited for the time being. The head of the national-conservative Iyi party, Meral Aksener, surprisingly attended a meeting with five other parties in Ankara on Monday, although she had only terminated cooperation with them on Friday. Bystanders applauded when she arrived for the session.

The reason for the dispute was the question of who should run against Erdogan in the presidential elections planned for May 14. The largest opposition party, the CHP, wanted to nominate its party leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and was supported by four smaller parties. Aksener made it clear that she did not support it because she believed the opposition leader had a poor chance of winning. She wanted to nominate popular Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas. Both CHP politicians do better in polls than their party leader.

According to the Iyi party, a compromise has now been found: Kilicdaroglu is to be nominated as a candidate as planned, and the two mayors are to be appointed vice presidents if they win the election.

Erdogan's re-election uncertain

The parliamentary and presidential elections are seen as a test for Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years. According to polls, his re-election is anything but certain. The country is struggling with massive inflation and high unemployment. After the severe earthquakes a month ago, criticism of the government's crisis management was also raised.

Aksener's withdrawal from the alliance had meanwhile caused a great deal of excitement in the opposition. She was mainly criticized for the sharpness of her statements. She had said, for example, that the choice between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu was "between death and malaria". To what extent the dispute has damaged the alliance is unclear.

At the same time, nominating the mayors for the presidency would have been problematic: Imamoglu was banned from politics in December. Should this become legally binding, he would no longer be allowed to hold any political office for the time being. Yavas, on the other hand, has a nationalist background that could scare off Kurdish voters. The pro-Kurdish HDP is not part of the six-party alliance, but is considered a kingmaker.

Kilicdaroglu so far unlucky

According to polls, Kilicdaroglu (74), on the other hand, is popular with Kurdish voters and could receive votes from the camp. It is therefore expected that the HDP will not present a candidate of its own in favor of Kilicdaroglu. Kilicdaroglu has been at the head of the opposition for almost 13 years - under his leadership his party has not yet been able to win an election against Erdogan. Opponents of his candidacy have repeatedly pointed out this fact.

Kilicdaroglu comes from the eastern Anatolian province of Tunceli (Kurdish: Dersim) and belongs to the Alevi religious minority. The opposition leader supports his country's EU membership and advocates a nationalist course on the refugee issue. Critics accuse him of not being charismatic and not the kind of leader that Turkey needs.

Kilicdaroglu counters that the Turks have had enough of Erdogan and his leadership style. In a dpa interview in December, he called for a "reasonable" policy. Although he is considered a poor campaigner, he is also a good mediator with diplomatic skills and a willingness to compromise.

Unfair election campaign expected

In addition to the CHP and the Iyi party, four smaller parties belong to the alliance of six. Among them are Erdogan's former companions, such as the Deva Party of former Economics Minister Ali Babacan and the Future Party of former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Among other things, the opposition alliance is promoting the abolition of the presidential system - under which Erdogan has had extensive powers since 2018 - and strengthening the parliament.

Erdogan's Islamic-conservative AKP is running in alliance with the ultra-nationalist MHP and the small, nationalist-religious BBP. Observers expect an unfair election campaign: a large part of the media is under the control of the government, and the judiciary is considered politicized. The HDP is also threatened with a ban on charges of separatism in a trial that human rights activists describe as politically motivated.

The elections are also being followed with interest in Germany. In the last vote in 2018, around 1.4 million Turks in Germany were eligible to vote.