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CHP chair urges unity as nationalist leader’s break with opposition bloc prompts disappointment, anger

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Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Friday urged calm and unity among the opposition against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the leader of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, Meral Akşener, in a move that prompted angry and disappointed reactions from prominent pro-opposition figures, withdrew her party from a bloc of six opposition parties due to disagreement over who should run for president in upcoming elections.

Earlier today Akşener broke with the opposition alliance due to its plans to nominate the CHP leader as its presidential candidate and called on two opposition party mayors to declare their candidacy.

Kılıçdaroğlu made a statement in a video posted on Twitter after Akşener’s remarks, emphasizing the importance of uniting “all colors and factions of Turkey” in order to create a new and prosperous nation.

Kılıçdaroğlu stressed that removing the current government should not be the only aim, but  also creating a better future for Turkey.

The CHP leader also expressed disappointment in the split of the nationalist leader from the opposition bloc, without naming names. He said Erdoğan’s polarizing discourse should have no place in the alliance and reassured the public that the opposition bloc would defeat the president and his “propaganda machine” in the in the elections to be held on May 14.

In a Thursday meeting of the leaders of the six opposition parties, which include the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in addition to the CHP and İYİ Party, five parties in the opposition bloc agreed on Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy, while Akşener dissented and insisted on the candidacy of either İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş, both from the CHP. The aim of the meeting was to select the bloc’s presidential candidate who would run against Erdoğan in the elections to be held on May 14.

İmamoğlu and Yavaş ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in their cities in the local elections of 2019. Some opinion surveys show that they enjoy more public support against Erdoğan and are more likely to get elected if nominated for the presidency than Kılıçdaroğlu, a former bureaucrat.

There are claims that Akşener’s objection to Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy stems from her concerns about convincing her party’s nationalist voter base to support a left-wing leader, while others say Akşener thinks it will be easier for her to fill the bureaucracy with people close to her party under the presidency of either İmamoğlu or Yavaş, a former member of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Opposition supporters express frustration, disappointment with Akşener

While many awaited a united stance from the opposition bloc, opposition supporters were shocked by Akşener’s announcement of withdrawal from the alliance, with many expressing their frustration and disappointment on Twitter.

“Two months before the elections, this decision means toying with the fate of a country… One can’t help but wonder if they dream of a coalition with the AKP,” prominent journalist Şirin Payzın tweeted, saying that Akşener’s call to the two mayors was an attempt to divide the CHP.

“The right can, at any moment, throw you under the bus. That’s its philosophy,” singer Aylin Aslım tweeted, referring to the nationalist İYİ Party.

“Even if the color of fascism changes, its mentality does not,” lawmaker Sezai Temelli, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), tweeted, along with an old photo of Akşener with former shady police chief and former interior minister Mehmet Ağar, whom she worked with during her time in the True Path Party (DYP) in the ’90s.

“These are very instructive days for understanding why the MHP and its offshoots should be avoided,” Koray Pehlivanoğlu tweeted, adding that the MHP and nationalist parties generally cannot be trusted.

Journalist Memduh Bayraktaroğlu in a tweet pointed to speculation that the İYİ Party had rejected Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy due to his ethnic and religious identity as an Alevi Kurd, and said he could not accept such a party becoming a partner of the new government after the elections if that is the case.

“[This is] a devastating parting speech from Akşener. She both accused the parties she sat at the same table with until yesterday with harsh words and tried to destabilize the CHP by appealing to Yavaş and İmamoğlu,” journalist Berkant Gültekin tweeted, claiming that Akşener could have come this far only with the help of the CHP.

“I feel sorry for Meral Akşener. She was disloyal to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who had brought her and her party into existence. She contradicted her own rhetoric and actions. She has lost her credibility. She threw the nationalist support for a democratic administration into the dustbin,” veteran journalist Emre Kongar tweeted.

“Three birds with one stone: Not only did she break the deal, but she’s also trying to divide the CHP. A lifeline for Erdoğan,” prominent critical journalist Can Dündar tweeted.

Meanwhile, Temel Karamollaoğlu and Gültekin Uysal, the leaders of the SP and the DP, respectively, made statements declaring their support for the opposition alliance and promised to stand behind their deeds as part of the bloc.

The opposition bloc has failed to determine its candidate, although there is little time left before the elections, which has brought them much criticism. The party leaders also gave the impression of disunity among themselves with their controversial statements from time to time.

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