Ankara: Turkey’s opposition is in crisis over a failure to agree on a joint candidate to contest President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with elections in less than three months.
The infighting burst into the open on Friday when the opposition bloc’s second largest party Iyi slammed the rest of the group for submitting to personal ambitions of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of CHP party, who wants to run as the bloc’s candidate.
“The alliance of six simply turned into a notary that approves one candidate,” Iyi Party head Meral Aksener said in televised comments. The alliance “ceased to be a platform of common sense where potential candidates can be debated.”
Leaders of the six-party opposition met on Thursday to break the impasse after months of internal conflict that prevented them from agreeing on a name. Aksener said she proposed Istanbul and Ankara mayors, but was rebuffed by the rest of the bloc, who insisted on Kilicdaroglu. It was the 12th time the leaders had came together, but their failure to reach an agreement has exposed them to frequent attacks from Erdogan.
While Aksener refrained from pulling out of the alliance, her public criticism and suggestions of alternative candidates make it increasingly likely that the anti-Erdogan camp will unravel.
The Turkish president accused opposition parties of being disorganised, telling the electorate that they remain too divided on important issues to run the country.
A day before the opposition’s last summit, Erdogan called for presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, quashing speculation the vote would be postponed following two deadly earthquakes.
The opposition has failed to effectively communicate its policy on vital topics from the economy to international relations, said Bekir Agirdir, head of the Konda polling agency. It should have the upper hand due to the government’s perceived bungled crisis response, but it’s missed the mark.
“Its continued infighting over the candidate coupled with its failure to convey its main vision on critical matters are hampering its chances,” said Agirdir, whose agency successfully predicted the margin of victory for local elections in 2019, when the opposition’s Ekrem Imamoglu took Istanbul.
Surveys consistently show a decline in support for the opposition bloc, though the numbers remain too close to predict a winner.
Early last year, more voters predicted the opposition would win. But sentiment has gradually changed in Erdogan’s favor in the last few months.
The Turkish president, who has assumed greater powers since 2018, remains Turkey’s most popular politician even as his Justice and Development Party lost some support among poor Turks who had been among its most stalwart backers.