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Aksener’s weekend split from the Turkish opposition alliance leaves it damaged

March 7, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Turkish President and Leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Mehmet Ali Özcan – Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expecting to face fierce competition in the presidential election scheduled to take place on 14 May, because the strong opposition front formed by six parties in February last year announced in August that it would be running a joint presidential candidate. The front is made up of the six main opposition parties: Republican People’s Party (CHP); Good Party (IP); Felicity Party (SP); Democrat Party (DP); Future Party (GP); and DEVA Party. They will announce their candidate when all are agreed about who it should be.

The leaders of the so-called Six Party Table have pledged to work together to end Erdogan’s 20 years at the top of Turkish politics. Political analysts and experts predict that the Six Party Table will mobilise the support needed against Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

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It has been a dirty fight so far. Aside from the expected campaigns that associated the reverse of the Turkish Lira with Erdogan in order to discredit him and the AK Party, the opposition exploited the misery of the people affected by the devastating earthquakes that hit the country last month, in order to gain political points.

However, Erdogan has debunked most of the claims related to the weak response to the disaster and attempted to keep the issue away from politics. Nevertheless, the opposition insist on exploiting the miserable humanitarian situation to wage an anti-Erdogan campaign.

Although the Six Party Table said last year that it would announce in January the name of its presidential candidate to stand against Erdogan, the deep-rooted ideological contradictions among the parties were probably why the announcement has been postponed until this month. These differences include the suggestion by the leader of the Future Party, Ahmet Davutoglu, that the candidate would rule the country according to the instructions of the alliance. This proposal triggered a controversy on the streets of Turkiye, as well as among his fellow politicians.

“They want to have a puppet president they will manage,” Erdogan told a gathering in Ankara in January. “They imagine a commander-in-chief who would serve as an aide to members of the Six Party Table. They want voters to elect an unknown candidate without any vision or plans. We know that the CHP long had this vanity, this fascist behaviour, but we did not know that others have it too.”

At the time of writing in the first week of March, the Six Party Table has still been unable to announce its presidential candidate. According to A-Haber TV, an agreement on a joint candidate had not been reached due to Meral Aksener of the Good Party opposing the nomination of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP.

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“We have become the hopes of our nation with our determination by coming together for the first time on 12 February [2022] to say that the logical outcome of the executive presidential system’s natural results, which has been swiftly pushing our country to a disaster, should be stopped,” said the Six Party Table in a joint statement last August. “Our presidential candidate will be 13th President of the Republic of Turkey and… will be everyone’s president.” Such certainty about the result of the presidential candidate has not been matched by any certainty over who that candidate should be, which is rather astonishing.

When members of the Six Party Table announced last Thursday that Kilicdaroglu will be their candidate for the presidential election, Aksener duly held a press conference on Friday and declared her defection from the alliance. She cited the dispute about selecting a candidate to challenge Erdogan.

“I am sorry to say that, as of yesterday, the Six Party Table has lost its ability to reflect the will of the nation in its decisions,” she told journalists in Ankara. She insisted that she does not want to be the candidate, and said that she prefers other CHP figures such as Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. “We have expressed our opinion in favour of the candidacy of these two names that we have heard mentioned frequently in the streets and squares for three years.”

Aksener appealed directly to the two mayors: “Our nation is calling you to duty. We will either march with millions in the glorious struggle or act as extras in a tragic story. We will either make history or become history.” However, both Yavas and Imamoglu have declared their full support for Kilicdaroglu despite him failing to achieve any victory during his 13-year-old leadership of the CHP.

Analysts say that the 74-year-old opposition figure does not have the ability to challenge Erdogan. Recent polls saw him getting support from only 40 per cent of the Turkish people.

In a further twist, Aksener rejoined the alliance on Monday on condition that Yavas and Imamoglu are appointed as executive vice presidents if the opposition parties win the upcoming election.

However, Aksener’s split and return have lost her and the group a degree of credibility. Turkish journalist Yusuf Katipoglu thinks that the Six Party Table will not regain its former credibility due to the “drama played out by Aksener which proves that the alliance is working to an external agenda.”

Katipoglu insisted that the external powers which actually run the Turkish opposition put pressure on Aksener to return to the Six Party Table in order to keep the opposition organised and the votes intact. All such shenanigans, of course, merely serve to add to Erdogan’s already strong electoral credit with the people of Turkiye.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.