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CHP chairman likely to be named opposition bloc’s presidential candidate

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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the chair of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is likely to be nominated as the presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties following a meeting of the party leaders on Thursday, Turkish media outlets reported.

The leaders of the six opposition parties — the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP), the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and the CHP — attended a meeting hosted by SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu at his party’s headquarters in Ankara on Thursday. The aim of the meeting was to select a presidential candidate who would run against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in elections to be held on May 14.

Following their meeting, the leaders did not announce a name as they previously said but issued a joint statement, saying, “We have reached a common understanding on our presidential candidate and on a roadmap for the transition process.” They also said they would make a “final statement” on Monday.

According to reports in the Turkish media and journalists such as Murat Sabuncu, from the T24 news website, who wrote about the meeting based on information from his sources, apart from İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener, the leaders of the five other political parties agreed to nominate Kılıçdaroğlu, while Akşener insisted that either İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş be nominated.

The two mayors from the CHP ended the years-long rule of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in their cities in the local elections of 2019. Some opinion surveys show the mayors have a greater chance of winning against Erdoğan than Kılıçdaroğlu.

Akşener reportedly told the other leaders that her party allowed her to agree to the nomination of either İmamoğlu or Yavaş. When Kılıçdaroğlu said the two would continue to serve as mayors and that he can run as the joint presidential candidate of the five parties if Akşener is unwilling to agree, the İYİ Party leader said she had to speak to her party’s administration and provincial chairpersons about Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy.

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).

Akşener summoned her party’s provincial chairpersons to a meeting in Ankara on Friday.

Meanwhile, İstanbul Mayor İmamoğlu endorsed the presidential candidacy of Kılıçdaroğlu in a statement on Friday, saying Kılıçdaroğlu is the presidential candidate of every CHP member.

“My candidate is also our chairman,” he said.

In a statement in late 2022, İmamoğlu said he was among the potential candidates for country’s top job and that he thought the opposition bloc should select someone who will definitely win against Erdoğan.

But the prospects of İmamoğlu’s nomination dimmed after he was sentenced to almost three years in prison and barred from politics for allegedly insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) in December.

The verdict is pending appeal; yet many think it could prevent İmamoğlu from serving as president even if he is elected since the Turkish judiciary is controlled by Erdoğan.

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