With a little more than two months to go before the vote in May, Turkiye’s six-party opposition alliance said it would announce its joint candidate next week to challenge President Tayyip Erdogan in the presidential election.
The alliance said it would announce its candidate on Monday, although there are signs of discord about the choice and other issues in the nationalist IYI Party, the second largest party in the alliance. It said it would hold talks on Friday.
The opposition has failed in previous national votes to pose a serious challenge to Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades but who has seen his popularity wane amid a cost-of-living crisis even before last month’s earthquakes that killed 45,000 people in Turkiye.
Erdogan indicated on Wednesday that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on May 14, sticking to a previous plan for the vote and undeterred by the earthquakes that were followed by criticism of his government’s response.
The leaders of the six opposition parties met on Thursday with the expectation that they would agree on a joint candidate, who was widely expected to be Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“We have reached a common understanding concerning our joint presidential candidate for the 13th presidential election and the roadmap for the transition process,” the alliance said.
The statement, signed by all six party leaders, said they would brief their parties’ executive boards before meeting again on Monday “to share the final statement with the public.”
Media reports said party leaders largely voiced support for Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Republican People’s Party (CHP), although they said there was still opposition to his candidacy within the IYI Party of Meral Aksener.
Aksener was set to chair a meeting of the IYI Party’s general administration board at 1030 GMT and make a statement.
“There are different opinions about what comes next. It is better not to go into details at this stage. I cannot say that we are satisfied with the point reached. Today will be critical,” said an IYI Party official, who declined to be named.
He said Kilicdaroglu was a strong candidate, but other candidates should be discussed. The CHP mayors of Istanbul and Ankara have been mooted as candidates and polls have indicated they could perform better than Kilicdaroglu against Erdogan.
A CHP official, who declined to be named, said there was broad agreement on selecting Kilicdaroglu.
“We don’t expect any problems anymore. This decision will be made by consensus. I don’t want to consider any other option,” he said.
Erdogan’s government has faced criticism for its handling of the emergency response to the earthquake, adding to what was already expected to be his biggest electoral challenge of his two decades in power as soaring inflation hits living standards.
The opposition has cooperated more closely since its success in taking control of major municipalities, including Istanbul and Ankara, from Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in 2019 local elections.
But reports of discord within the opposition alliance have raised doubts about its ability to capitalize on the erosion in Erdogan’s popularity shown by the opinion polls.