Joint candidate against Erdoğan not very likely
Since last week there have been a number of unknowns regarding the early election row in Turkish politics. These unknowns can be summarized as follows:
* Could the opposition parties manage to unite behind one candidate against President Tayyip Erdoğan? This question was especially important after the radical move by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to ask 15 MPs to resign from the CHP and join the center-right İYİ (Good) Party to prevent the latter from being blocked from entering the election. That demonstration of solidarity was a rare gesture in Turkey’s fractious politics.
* Could that joint candidate be former President Abdullah Gül? Gül has served as prime minister and foreign minister for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in the past, and was a member of the AKP’s founding triumvirate along with Erdoğan and former Parliamentary Speaker Bülent Arınç. But he is known to have differed with Erdoğan recently over a number of issues, particularly the accumulation of all executive powers in presidential hands as confirmed in the outcome of the 2017 referendum.
* Will Gül be a candidate at all? There have been claims that Gül would prefer to be an independent candidate - if he runs at all - but Felicity Party (Saadet) leader Temel Karamollaoğlu also wants Gül to be its candidate. Saadet is heir of the religious-conservative Milli Görüş movement led by the late Necmettin Erbakan, which also gave birth to the AK Parti. Erdoğan, Gül and Arınç were all followers of Erbakan before the AK Parti was formed.
All parties have been focused on the June 24 early election since it was announced last week. The idea for the election was pushed by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who supports Erdoğan in his bid to get re-elected as president and also dominate parliament. The parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential election will be held on the same day.
Kılıçdaroğlu had his second meeting in a week on April 25 with İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener to try to convince her to agree to putting forward a joint candidate. Karamollaoğlu spoke to Gül on the same day for over two hours and left the meeting without making a statement. Amid unconfirmed speculation that Saadet wants to attract at least 20 MPs from the AK Parti to form a parliamentary group like the İYİ Party, Erdoğan also established contact with the right-wing Great Unity Party (BBP) about joining the AKP-MHP alliance.
Amid all the jostling, it seems that there will be no joint opposition bloc, despite the fact that the CHP, the İYİ Party, Saadet, and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are strongly against Erdoğan’s re-election. The outlook, as of yesterday, is as follows:
* İYİ Party leader Akşener reiterated her position to stand for the presidency, vowing to continue even if Gül announces his candidacy.
* Meral Danış Beştaş of the HDP declared that her party’s candidate will be the HDP’s jailed former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş.
* Amid internal protests, CHP spokesman Özgür Özel said his party will not present Gül as its presidential candidate. The CHP executive committee had given a blank check to Kılıçdaroğlu over election alliances and naming a presidential candidate, and his leadership rival at the most recent CHP congress, Muharrem İnce, is among the possible candidates.
* Saadet leader Karamollaoğlu is still involved in shuttle diplomacy between the opposition parties, which is likely to end up in an election alliance (for the parliamentary election) with the İYİ Party and the minor Democrat Party (DP).
At the moment it seems that there will be more than two candidates for the presidency on June 24. If Erdoğan or none of the candidates can get at least 50 percent plus one vote in the first round, then a second round will be held two weeks later, on July 8, between the two candidates who got the most votes in the first round. As of today, the probability of a joint opposition candidate against Erdoğan is quite low.