Turkey’s opposition desperately seeking a candidate
Opposition parties spent last week in search of a presidential candidate. In fact it was the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that seemed keenest to seek a political alliance with other parties, rather than running in the election with its own candidate. The splinter nationalist İYİ (Good) Party leader, Meral Akşener, had earlier announced her candidacy and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) named jailed leader Selahattin Demirtaş as its candidate.
Under the circumstances, only the Islamist opposition Saadet (Felicity) Party seemed eager to form a united front with the republicans if ex-President Abdullah Gül agreed to be their joint candidate. However, as many CHP supporters oppose that idea (for good reason) it seems that the plan was destined to not work from the start. I never actually thought Gül would be persuaded to be the candidate against his “old friend Erdoğan,” and ultimately that proved to be the case, with Gül announcing his non candidacy in a press conference on April 28.
Although many intellectuals from left and right were in favor of the idea, I was among those who were not convinced about Gül’s candidacy from the beginning. There were various reasons for this. It is not only that I did not think Gül would be persuaded to stand; even if he agreed, he would be unlikely to be able to defeat Erdoğan as hoped. First of all, many republicans would be reluctant to vote for Gül as he is from the ruling party and shares its ideology. It was also a hollow idea to expect him to attract Kurdish votes, as he is not a particularly credible politician in the eyes of the majority of Kurds as his view of the Kurdish issue is not even known.
The basic argument of those who supported the idea of Gül’s candidacy was that he could unite different political circles for the common cause of returning Turkey to the parliamentary system. It is a pity for the opposition that they were running after a lost cause. First of all, such a democratic front would have been a good idea before - not after - the system was changed in the referendum last April.
It is also pity that many republicans, leftists and democrats vested their hopes in a politician who has no less responsibility for the current shortcomings of Turkey’s democracy than President Erdoğan. As such, the idea of nominating Gül was a grave expression of political failure, political surrender, and loss of moral superiority on behalf of the opposition.
The democratic opposition should be based on principles and determination rather than shows of desperation and hopeless mathematical calculations. Otherwise, the ruling party will be justified in its description of such efforts as political engineering and politics of sheer anti-Erdoğanism.