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Nationalist leader breaks with alliance, calls mayors to action for presidential candidacy

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Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, has broken with an opposition alliance due to its plans to nominate the country’s main opposition leader as a presidential candidate and called on two opposition party mayors to declare their candidacy.

Akşener met with her party officials in Ankara on Friday where she discussed the proposal of five opposition parties to nominate Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as their presidential candidate.

The five other 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 İYİ Party leader, who spoke to reporters following the meeting, said her party is being forced by the other parties in the opposition bloc to nominate Kılıçdaroğlu and that her party wouldn’t bow to this pressure. She said the İYİ Party is being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Akşener said she proposed the candidacy of either İmamoğlu or Yavaş during Thursday’s meeting with the other opposition leaders because she believes, based on the results of opinion surveys, the mayors have a greater chance of winning against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.

She called on the two mayors to heed the nation’s call and announce their presidential candidacy against the nomination of Kılıçdaroğlu.

“Our nation is calling you to duty,” she told the mayors, while accusing Kılıçdaroğlu of promoting “personal ambitions” over the country’s interests.

In his first comments about Akşener’s remarks, the CHP leader said nobody should worry and that things will settle down.

“We are on our way, friends,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, when asked by reporters about what his plan is.

The leaders of the six opposition parties, which also include the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP), the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in addition to the CHP and İYİ Party, 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 the bloc’s presidential candidate who would run against Erdoğan in the elections to be held on May 14.

Following their meeting, the leaders did not announce a name as they had 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.”

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).

Both Yavaş and İmamoğlu said earlier that they would abide by the opposition bloc’s decision and would support Kılıçdaroğlu if he is nominated.

There were widespread concerns about the failure of the opposition bloc to nominate a joint candidate, and Akşener’s resignation from the bloc on Friday only confirmed those fears.

The opposition bloc has failed to determine its candidate although there is little time left before the elections, which 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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