Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, has announced his candidacy for May’s presidential election.
The veteran social-democratic politician is backed by five smaller parties in an alliance against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
His candidacy follows a crisis in the opposition Nation Alliance party, led by his Republican People’s Party (CHP), after the right-wing Good (IYI) Party, the bloc’s second largest and sixth largest member, opposed his candidacy. withdrawal from the alliance.
The drama within the alliance came about two months before presidential and parliamentary elections, which will be held amid dire economic conditions and in the aftermath of last month’s devastating earthquakes that killed more than 45,000 people in southeastern Turkey and millions became homeless.
Who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu?
Kilicdaroglu was born in 1948 in the eastern town of Tunceli, one of seven children in a family from the Alevi religious minority. His father was a deed officer and his mother was a housewife.
He graduated in economics from the Ankara Academy of Economics and Commercial Sciences (now called Gazi University) in the Turkish capital.
Kilicdaroglu held top financial and economic positions in Turkish institutions, including the Ministry of Finance, Directorate General of Revenue and two social security agencies.
He taught at Hacettepe University in Ankara and was a board member of Turkey Is Bank, the country’s largest private bank in terms of assets.
How did Kilicdaroglu enter politics and become CHP leader?
Kilicdaroglu entered parliament as a CHP deputy from Istanbul in the 2002 general elections, which also saw Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK) take power for the first time after an economic crisis.
He was re-elected in 2007 and served as deputy chairman of his party’s parliamentary group under Deniz Baykal, then CHP leader.
After Baykal’s resignation, Kilicdaroglu stood unopposed for CHP leader at the May 2010 party convention and became chairman of the centre-left party.
His party has since lost all general and presidential elections to the AK Party and Erdogan.
The main success of the CHP and its allies came in the 2019 local elections, when the party won mayoral contests in five of the country’s six largest provinces, including Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey’s financial center and largest city.
What is the reason for the recent political unrest?
On Friday, Meral Aksener, the leader of the IYI party, denounced her allies at a news conference for what she viewed as imposing Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy, a day after talks between the six party leaders known as the Table of Six.
“The Table of Six has lost the ability to reflect the will of the citizens in its decisions,” she said. She said she would not “bow” to pressure to support Kilicdaroglu.
She asked the CHP mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas, to run for president instead.
The conflict was resolved on Monday through high-level talks and a public visit by Imamoglu and Yavas to Aksener at IYI headquarters in Ankara.
The IYI party proposed that Imamoglu and Yavas serve as vice presidents if the bloc wins the elections in May, which was accepted by the CHP.
Galip Dalay, a senior fellow at the Middle East Council, said tensions between the bloc’s two main parties centered not primarily on which candidate could win the election, but who would have more influence in Turkey. after the elections.
“These three political actors represent different views and electorate base, so the IYI party in particular sees itself in a stronger position in dealing with a government that includes Imamoglu and Yavas,” the analyst said.
Who are Imamoglu and Yavas?
Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu is known for his liberal views and has close ties to Aksener. He was the mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district for the CHP before winning citywide in a 2019 contest to be repeated. The AK Party contested its initial victory and managed to have the election annulled, but Imamoglu won by a larger margin a few months later.
He is currently appealing against a court decision to ban him from politics. He was sentenced in December to two years and seven months in prison and banned from political office for allegedly insulting election officials following his mayoral victory.
The mayor of Ankara, Yavas, is on the right side of the CHP. He was the mayor of Ankara’s Beypazari district for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdogan, for two terms. He became the mayor of Ankara on his third attempt after two failed attempts under the MHP and the CHP.
Aksener himself was also a member of the MHP.
Dalay told Al Jazeera that if the alliance can work together and campaign like it did in the 2019 local elections, it has a chance of winning regardless of the candidate.
“If the alliance can stick together and create internal synergy and harmony, they can win,” he said, adding that the alliance would also have the tacit support of a non-member, the pro-Kurdish left-wing People’s Democratic Party.