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Nationalist leader returns to opposition bloc after split

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Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, who last week broke with an opposition alliance due to its plans to nominate the country’s main opposition leader as a presidential candidate, is returning to the opposition bloc, the party’s spokesperson has announced.

İYİ Party spokesperson Kürşad Zorlu said Akşener would be attending a meeting of the Nation Alliance at Felicity Party (SP) headquarters on Monday afternoon.

The leaders of the six parties had gathered to announce the name of their candidate, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in the race against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who will seek re-election in polls scheduled for May 14.

Akşener left the meeting on Friday in protest of the the agreement of the five parties in the bloc to nominate Kılıçdaroğlu as their presidential candidate instead of moving forward with her proposal to nominate either İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş, both CHP mayors.

She decided to return to the bloc after meeting with İmamoğlu and Yavaş on Monday morning, suggesting instead that the two mayors serve as vice presidents if Kılıçdaroğlu is elected.

Akşener sparked a political crisis by insisting on the candidacy of either of the two mayors because they’re more popular among voters and because, based on opinion survey results, they have a greater chance of winning against Erdoğan

It is not yet clear if Kılıçdaroğlu has accepted Akşener’s proposal for İmamoğlu and Yavaş to serve as his vice presidents if he is elected.

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.

İmamoğlu and Yavaş turned down Akşener’s proposal on Friday to announce their candidacy, saying they support their leader Kılıçdaroğlu.

Akşener’s change of heart on Monday came after she was accused of committing “political suicide” with her decision to part ways with the opposition bloc since it caused outrage among the group’s supporters, who hoped the alliance would unseat Erdoğan in the election and stop the country’s years-long democratic backsliding.

The CHP and the İYİ Party set up their alliance before the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2018, and it was later expanded to include four small opposition parties.

Erdoğan’s AKP is allied with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party, a small, nationalist party.

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