Bahçeli and Kılıçdaroğlu shake hands before their meeting in Ankara, June 16. DHA Photo
The two major opposition parties represented at the Turkish Parliament have finally announced their agreement for nominating the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, as their joint presidential candidate.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
officially announced on June 16 that the senior diplomat would be announced as a joint candidate with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in a move they dub “The Grand Conciliation.”
“We are proposing a name who will be accepted by everybody and who will set a model for everybody with his reputation, honesty, knowledge and experience: Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters as he made a joint statement with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli following their meeting at Parliament.
“Let me express that we have been experiencing a new case in democracy. We want to start a process that favors peace and serenity and that keeps distant from strife,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
For his part, Bahçeli described İhsanoğlu’s nomination as “a fortunate step,” suggesting that their efforts for nominating a joint candidate should be considered as “a move beyond political parties.” The MHP leader was apparently referring to his and Kılıçdaroğlu’s consultations with civil society organizations and representatives of various segments of society before making a decision on a candidate.
“By becoming united on this name, the MHP is willing to finalize this election without allowing any chaos and having our democracy strengthened,” Bahçeli said, pledging his party’s strong efforts to have İhsanoğlu elected to the presidency.
Kılıçdaroğlu had already told reporters on June 15 that he would propose an exact name during his meeting with Bahçeli, and it is widely considered that the CHP
would not have floated the idea of nominating İhsanoğlu without already having the MHP’s consent for the idea.
The former OIC chief’s nomination by the opposition parties as a joint candidate is apparently based on assumptions that he could be embraced by right-wing and conservative voters alienated from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Speaking after the announcement, İhsanoğlu described his nomination as a "great courtesy." "To be the focal point of this conciliation is a great courtesy. There is no doubt that there are many people with superior qualities who deserve this post and can do what is necessary in this job. I welcome the joint decision of the CHP
and the MHP with respect and gratitude," he said.
Harsh AKP criticism
The ruling style of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the AKP’s potential candidate, who is widely labeled to be increasingly authoritarian, is thought to be worrying not only for voters with secular sensitivities.
Only a few months before leaving his post as head of the OIC, İhsanoğlu was the target of a harsh campaign by the AKP government.
Despite having previously lobbied hard for the election of İhsanoğlu to the post, the AKP government publicly pointed the finger at him in the summer of 2013 for his stance in the aftermath of the toppling of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
At the time, senior government officials took aim at İhsanoğlu for the OIC’s perceived inaction following the Egyptian army’s heavy crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters, calling on him to resign for “dishonorable passivity.”