Following the probable selection of Kemal Kilicdaroglu by a six-party alliance as its presidential candidate, the leader of the Turkish opposition emerged on Monday as President Tayyip Erdogan’s major rival in the historic elections anticipated on May 14.
After a two-decade administration that has altered the NATO member nation and significant emerging market economy, Kilicdaroglu, 74, the leader of the nation’s second-largest party, seeks to escape from Erdogan’s shadow and unseat the president.
“Our table is the table of peace. Our only goal is to take the country to days of prosperity, peace and joy,” Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told about 2,000 people gathered in Ankara.
“We will govern Turkey with consultation and consensus.”
Polls suggest that the presidential and parliamentary votes in two months will be tight, with the opposition bloc running slightly ahead of the governing alliance.
The bloc has vowed to reverse many of Erdogan’s policies on the economy, civil rights and foreign affairs in what many see as the most consequential election in the republic’s 100-year history.
A former civil servant, Kilicdaroglu could take advantage of years of economic crisis and soaring inflation, as well as last month’s devastating earthquakes in the south that killed more than 46,000 people brought criticism of the state’s response.
Yet some doubt that the feisty former economist who climbed the ranks as a corruption-fighter can defeat Erdogan, Turkey’s longest-serving leader whose campaigning charisma has helped achieve more than a dozen election victories.
Voters will decide not only who leads Turkey but how it is governed, where its economy is headed and what role it may play to ease conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East.