CHP leader rules out Istanbul, Ankara mayors’ bid for presidency

CHP leader rules out Istanbul, Ankara mayors’ bid for presidency

Amid sound and fury over the two-week-long destructive forest fires, a statement by the main opposition leader over the upcoming presidential elections went almost unnoticed. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), signaled his opposition to the potential nominations of Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, mayors of Istanbul and Ankara respectively, as the oppositional bloc’s presidential candidate.

“Metropolitan mayors should continue for one more term. We want their success to be continuous. Of course, they can come to better and more appealing positions,” he said in an interview with private broadcaster Habertürk on Aug. 6. He made this comment on a specific question about these two men’s potential candidacy to the presidency.

Both İmamoğlu and Yavaş were mentioned as the potential candidates of the opposition alliance as they won the mayoral elections in 2019 as the joint nominee of the Nation Alliance, which is composed of the CHP, the İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party and the Democrat Party. Their term will be over in 2024, and in case one of them decides to run for the presidency in 2023 or earlier, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will be able to get the rule in that city as it has the majority in both metropolitan city’s municipal assembly.

Kılıçdaroğlu simply does not want to lose the rule of either city before Turkey’s key elections. Controlling Istanbul, which sends 98 deputies and Ankara 36 deputies to the parliament, is seen much more important than the two mayors’ potential bid to run for the president.

Presuming that İmamoğlu and Yavaş will be out of the race, the question over who will run against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan becomes more blunt. Kılıçdaroğlu has stated a couple of times that he may run as a result of a decision by the Nation Alliance. İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener said she was ready to make any kind of sacrifice for the future of the country when she was asked over her presidential candidacy.

Her emphasis was on the fact that the AKP mayoral candidates in Istanbul and Ankara as well as in some other metropoles lost against the Nation Alliance in 2019. She sees that it would be possible for the oppositional alliance to win the presidency if they keep their unity and agree on a joint candidate. Because she says the main motivation of the opposition is to get rid of the current presidential system and return to the parliamentary system and that the presidential elections are just a tool to do so.

Kılıçdaroğlu is on the same page with Akşener on this. Recalling that all the opposition parties are internally working for the return to the parliamentary system, Kılıçdaroğlu suggested that they could come together to compare their drafts and agree on the principles of the new system they were promising to the public.

But, they don’t want to rush. Because, changing a system is not easy and can always turn out to be controversial. The opposition needs to stay focused and united. These principles are important, but they should not occupy people’s agenda from now.

Some argue that Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener are mulling over how they can run for the presidency together, one as the president and the other as the vice president. Because the system they want to bring requires a symbolic president and a strong prime minister, Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener can compromise over such a model. Those who suggest this argue that this can further enhance the unity of the opposition and introduce a good model of political partnership for expanding the alliance’s reach beyond its traditional voters.