Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has received strong criticism from his political allies and supporters for failing to view his loss in the May presidential runoff as a defeat and for making a secret agreement with Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right, anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), before the election.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won 52.18 percent of the vote to Kılıçdaroğlu’s 47.82 percent in the runoff on May 28 despite an economic crisis and anger over the response to February earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people.
In an interview with Habertürk TV on Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu indicated that he didn’t view the election loss as a “defeat” and refused to engage in any self-criticism for the results.
When asked whether he sees the presidential runoff as a “defeat,” he said he didn’t, adding that what they didn’t win was “the election results.”
The CHP leader also admitted to having made an agreement with Özdağ involving ministries and leadership of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) as bargaining chips, of which the parties in the Nation Alliance weren’t aware.
In addition to Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP, the alliance also includes the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party (SP), the Democracy and Progressive Party (DEVA), the Future Party (GP) and the Democrat Party (DP).
A few days ahead of the presidential runoff, Kılıçdaroğlu secured the endorsement of Özdağ by signing a seven-article agreement that committed him to sending “13 million refugees back home,” a focal point of the ZP leader’s election campaign.
Bilge Yılmaz, deputy chairman of İYİ, apologized to voters in a tweet for not being able to adequately combat the methods used by Kılıçdaroğlu to secure his candidacy in the presidential race and to win the election.
Geride bıraktığımız başkanlık seçimlerini muhalefet kaybetmiştir ve Millet İttifakı’nın üyeleri olarak bunun sorumluluğunu üstlenmekten hiçbirimiz kaçamayız.
Milletimize ödemek zorunda olduğumuz bir özür ve özeleştiri borcumuz var. Bunu yapmadan, ne halkımızın temsilini…
— Bilge Yılmaz (@ProfBilgeYilmaz) July 21, 2023
“A name/team that reduces the election campaign to populism … and fails to produce genuine policies shouldn’t have determined Turkey’s fate,” Yılmaz said.
He added that Kılıçdaroğlu making a secret deal with Özdağ “is not in accordance with democratic norms or political ethics.”
Commenting on Yılmaz’s statements, Twitter user Can Okar described him as “the only politician in Turkey to ever accept responsibility,” adding that he understands the importance of accountability and the need for making peace with a heartbroken electorate.
The only politician in Turkey to ever accept responsibility is Professor Bilge Yılmaz. He understands the importance of accountability. He senses the need for peacemaking with a heartbroken electorate.
The rest of them need to take a long hard look at themselves. https://t.co/pUnBJGLiXg
— Can Okar (@canokar) July 21, 2023
GP spokesman Serkan Özcan thanked the CHP leader in an ironic tweet about the secret deal, saying that no other words or statements could alleviate the great sorrow he felt due to the election defeat.
Başka hiçbir söz ya da açıklama seçim mağlubiyeti nedeniyle duyduğum büyük üzüntüyü ortadan kaldıramazdı.
Teşekkür ederim Sn.Kılıçdaroğlu!
Ben ve benim gibi sırf bu ülkeye demokrasi, hukuk ve eşitlik gelsin diye gecesini gündüzüne katan binlerce insana büyük bir teselli… https://t.co/jGJMV7sRu3
— Serkan Özcan (@serkanozcan1) July 20, 2023
“It turns out that he was making deals, signing agreements in the dark corridors of Ankara while we were asking for votes for him in the field. … Can a trust so recklessly squandered be regained, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu?” İYİ MP Turhan Çömez said, addressing the CHP leader.
Biz sahada kendisi için oy isterken,
Meğer o, Ankara’nın karanlık dehlizlerinde pazarlıklar yapıyor, protokoller imzalıyormuş.
Arkadaşlarının haberi yok, ittifak ortaklarının bilgisi yok.
Hoyratça heba edilmiş bir güven, yeniden kazanılabilir mi Sayın @kilicdarogluk ? pic.twitter.com/FDNQqPRwyw
— Op Dr Turhan Comez (@ComezTurhan) July 20, 2023
“We always had concerns, but none of them were more valuable than the light of democracy at the end of the tunnel. Trust is difficult to build but very easy to squander. It shouldn’t have been squandered so easily,” DEVA lawmaker Mustafa Yeneroğlu also said.
Güçlendirilmiş Parlamenter Sistem, Anayasa Değişikliği Önerisi ve Ortak Mutabakat Metni çalışmaları iki yıllık zorlu bir süreç içinde büyük bir özveri, güven ve şeffaflık zemininde hazırlandı.
Çoğu zaman sadece gündüzlerimizi değil, gecelerimizi de bu sürece seferber ettik.…
— Mustafa Yeneroğlu (@myeneroglu) July 20, 2023
While journalist Hayko Bağdat said the secret agreement was “embarrassing,” Okar criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for giving a poor explanation of why he doesn’t see the election as a defeat, saying, “Either he is a [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP mole, or he has ‘lost the plot’.”
Utanç verici… https://t.co/LxTfgtpcaU
— Hayko Bağdat (@haykobagdat) July 20, 2023
I still cannot actually believe that this exchange happened…
“Do you see the election as a defeat?”
“No, not as a defeat.”
“Then what do you see it as?”
“We didn’t win the election results…”
Either he is an AKP mole or he has lost the plot.pic.twitter.com/x94JSG1YEQ
— Can Okar (@canokar) July 21, 2023
Leading figures within the CHP, including İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and parliamentary group chairman Özgür Özel, have been sending strong signals of an imminent and dramatic transformation within the party, including the potential for a shift in the leadership, since Kılıçdaroğlu’s defeat.