The six-party alliance has named Kemal Kilicdaroglu as their joint candidate for the May 14 presidential race.
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has been named as the main challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a historic presidential and parliamentary vote, following days of bickering by a six-party alliance over the nomination.
“Our table is the table of peace. Our only goal is to bring the country to days of prosperity, peace and joy,” Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told about 2,000 people gathered in Ankara on Monday.
The head of the country’s second largest party will aim to beat the president in a close race on May 14.
The bloc has said it will reverse many of Erdogan’s policies on economics, civil rights and foreign affairs in what many see as the most sweeping election in the republic’s 100-year history.
Kilicdaroglu, 74, could benefit from years of economic crisis and skyrocketing inflation, as well as last month’s devastating earthquakes in the south, which killed more than 46,000 people and drew criticism of the state’s response.
Still, some doubt the former economist-turned-corruption fighter can beat Erdogan, Turkey’s longest-serving leader whose campaign charisma has helped him win more than a dozen electoral victories.
Five parties in the opposition coalition had agreed Friday on Kilicdaroglu’s nomination, but the bloc fell apart after Turkish leader of the IYI party, Meral Aksener, warned that the joint candidate was in danger of losing the election.
The presidential candidates proposed by the IYI party – Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas, the CHP mayors of Istanbul and Ankara respectively – were not accepted by the other five parties.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Ankara, said Kilicdaroglu “is known to have lost almost every election” he has fought. But his popularity soared after he organized a “Justice March” from Ankara to Istanbul in 2017 to protest the crackdown on journalists and academics following an attempted coup.
Koseoglu said the IYI party had opposed the nomination after polls suggested that Imamoglu and Yavas had a better chance of winning.
After a tense 72 hours, the alliance reconvened on Monday and accepted an IYI proposal that Imamoglu and Yavas would later be named vice presidents.
In his speech, Kilicdaroglu said that the leaders of the other five opposition parties would also serve as vice presidents.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said it could also support Kilicdaroglu in the presidential election after “clear, open talks”.
“Our clear expectation is a transition to a strong democracy. If we can agree on fundamental principles, we can support him in the presidential election,” fellow party leader Mithat Sancar said in a live broadcast on private broadcaster Haberturk.
The Turkish opposition has cooperated more closely since its success in taking control of major municipalities, including Istanbul and Ankara, from Erdogan’s AK Party in the 2019 local elections.
But the dissension within the opposition alliance has cast doubts on its ability to capitalize on the erosion of Erdogan’s popularity shown by opinion polls.
The opposition has failed to seriously challenge Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades, in previous national elections.