İYİ Party’s Akşener moves ahead among opposition’s presidential candidates
According to the timeline announced by the Supreme Election Board (YSK), all candidates willing to run for president in the July 24 elections need to be registered by May 5. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will race for the title as the joint candidate of the People’s Alliance, composed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
After a week of intense discussions, it has become apparent that the opposition parties failed to compromise over a joint candidate and therefore each of them will run in the elections individually. This means that on June 24, opposition candidates will not only run against Erdoğan but between each other in order to be qualified for the second round of presidential polls. No need to say, if, of course, Erdoğan will fail to garner at least 50 percent plus one vote in the first round.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has around 25 percent of solid votes in the past parliamentary elections, has not yet announced its candidate. Its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has long been arguing that the CHP’s candidate should be an “electable figure” that could attract votes from the right wing electorate in the second round of presidential elections.
The names that have long been voiced within the party are İlhan Kesici, a well-known center right politician that had joined the CHP in previous years, Yılmaz Büyükerşen, the successful mayor of Eskişehir and Mehmet Haberal, a world-known medical doctor. However, the in-house discussion over who should be the CHP’s candidate is still very strong, as a good majority believes none of these names could be described as a strong nomination.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) is mulling over imprisoned former leader Selahattin Demirtaş’s candidacy for president, just like in 2014.
On the İYİ (Good) Party front, things are much better organized. Its leader Meral Akşener has never taken a step back on her determinacy in running as a presidential candidate against Erdoğan. Despite poor media coverage, she could manage to create a sort of political wave with observations that many traditional CHP voters would opt to vote for her in the presidential elections.
At this point, there are speculations that Kılıçdaroğlu, aware of the fact that CHP voters tend to vote for the İYİ Party leader, is deliberately preferring a rather weak figure so that Akşener could be better consolidated against Erdoğan. Kılıçdaroğlu’s game play is not limited to the presidential elections.
He has also suggested making a great alliance with the participation of all opposition parties in order to defeat AKP-MHP plans to win the parliamentary majority. His calculations indicate this kind of big alliance would garner 80 more seats in parliament and would make life very difficult for Erdoğan in the event he would be elected as president.
Seemingly, Kılıçdaroğlu was not really successful in convincing Akşener, who is a nationalist politician with a poor reputation on her policies towards the resolution of the Kurdish question during her service as the Interior Minister in mid-1990s, that such an alliance should also include the HDP.
The time is very limited for negotiations between the political parties as they need to register the alliances they form with the YSK by May 6.
Many CHP lawmakers have been expressing concerns that these elections would turn out to be a major defeat for the main oppositional party. They have been observing two worrying electoral behaviors: First, there are those who will vote for the CHP in the parliamentary elections but will put their stamp on Akşener in the presidential race.
The second, however, suggests a sizeable CHP electorate would vote both for Akşener and the İYİ Party. That is why so many CHP lawmakers have drawn Kılıçdaroğlu’s attention to this risk in a closed party meeting last week.
By this weekend, we will be able to know who the presidential candidates are and whether the oppositional parties will manage to form a united front against the People’s Alliance. Until now, the performance of the İYİ Party seems to be much better, which paves the way for Akşener to move ahead of his oppositional contenders for the presidential race.