CHP blows hot and cold on İhsanoğlu move as AKP heralds 'end of opposition'

CHP blows hot and cold on İhsanoğlu move as AKP heralds 'end of opposition'

CHP blows hot and cold on İhsanoğlu move as AKP heralds end of opposition

CHP Istanbul deputy Nur Serter was one of the critics on İhsanoğlu’s appointment. AA Photo

The announcement of Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as the joint opposition presidential candidate has drawn mixed reactions from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), while a senior Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker heralded “the end of the opposition."

Reactions poured in after the unexpected announcement by CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli in a joint press statement following their meeting in Ankara, June 16.

Although İhsanoğlu’s nomination received general support within the CHP, a number of dissidents questioned whether the choice truly represented the party.

İhsanoğlu’s nomination received general support from the two parties, although some dissidents in the CHP reacted negatively to the selection. Hüseyin Aygün, the CHP’s Tunceli deputy, complained through his Twitter account that the party should have nominated “a leftist candidate” for the post.

CHP Istanbul deputy Nur Serter, meanwhile, criticized the party leadership for İhsanoğlu’s appointment, stressing that he “did not represent” the CHP. “I am in deep sorrow and shame. A dagger has been stabbed into the heart of the CHP. We will evaluate what we will do with our friends,” she told daily Hürriyet. Serter is a representative of the party’s Kemalist faction, staunchly loyal to secular and republican views.

'Egypt’s candidate'

Meanwhile, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials evaluated the appointment of a non-partisan academic as the presidential candidate as being “the end of the opposition,” which had not even been able to introduce a candidate from their parties.  

“This is the end of the opposition,” Burhan Kuzu, the head of the Parliament’s Constitution Commission and a senior member of the AKP told Anadolu Agency. “This shows that they could not agree on a person to do politics. This means that the leftists will not be able to find an appropriate nominee.”

Arguing that the opposition’s “sole purpose” was to see Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan losing the election no matter who the winner is, Kuzu said they were making a miscalculation. “They believe that the AK Party has 45 percent and the opposition has 55 percent. This is not a correct calculation. This calculation does not work in the presidential elections,” he said.

Mustafa Şentop, a deputy leader of the AKP, touched on the conservative identity of İhsanoğlu and criticized the CHP for “misunderstanding” the AKP’s political success. “The AK Party is not winning because it appoints conservative names, but because it is based on the people’s values. As long as the CHP continues its fight against the people’s values, it will never be able to be successful, even if it appoints the Sheikh of el-Ezher (an Islamic university in Cairo) rather than just a graduate of el-Ezher, Ekmelettin İhsanoğlu,” he said. 

“Ekmeleddin saw Turkey for the first time at the age of 30. He is a transfer from Egypt. He was born in Cairo,” Şentop added.  

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.”

Reacting to the nomination, Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) co-chair Pervin Buldan said her party was now likely to nominate its own candidate for the first round of the elections. “It seems difficult for us to support a candidate backed by the MHP,” Buldan said.

The HDP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), two parties that focus on the Kurdish issue, had announced after a meeting with CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu that they would consider supporting the CHP’s presidential candidate in the second round of polls if the nominee was someone who could provide assurances on democracy, freedom and the Kurdish question.