Turkish opposition leader says Erdogan will lose election

Turkish opposition leader says Erdogan will lose election
The Republican People's Party, Turkey's main opposition group, garnered only about a quarter of the vote in the 2015 elections.
2 min read
22 April, 2018
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu at the Justice Rally in Istanbul [Getty]

The leader of the opposition Republican People's Party in Turkey said voters who backed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would "side with democracy" in the snap elections called for June.

Leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said he is confident his party, the main opposition to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), would oust the longtime president "with at least 60 per cent of votes".

But many observers doubt Kilicdaroglu's optimism. The CHP has not put forward a presidential candidate, a campaign plan or potential party alliances.

Erdogan, for his part, has worked to consolidate his base for months with speeches and events, bolstered by rising nationalism amid Turkey's military operation against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria's Afrin region. 

During a live interview on NTV Saturday, Erdogan challenged Kilicdaroglu to run as the CHP's candidate for president.

"He should enter this race," the president said. "Let's see how much the nation votes for you".

Erdogan mocked Kilicdaroglu's "self-confident statements," noting that the opposition leader overestimated how many votes the CHP would get in the 2015 elections.

In an interview with AP, Kilicdaroglu charged Erodgan with moving up elections initially planned for November 2019 in a bid to "obtain more power, to completely suspend democracy".

Last year, Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to change Turkey's form of government to an executive presidency. The change will take effect after the June 24 election is held.

Kilicdaroglu said if Erdogan is victorious, the new system would establish Turkey as "the one-man regime".

Though the CHP garnered only a quarter of national votes in the 2015 general elections, it has been emboldened by the 48.6 per cent of "no" votes in the referendum and the wide support for the party's "justice" march from Ankara to Istanbul in June and July of 2017.

The march was called in response to the state of emergency declared after a failed coup attempt in July 2016. 

Turkey has arrested more than 150,000 people since the 2016 coup attempt. An additional 150,000 civil servants have been fired from their posts.

Meanwhile, on Sunday 15 lawmakers from CHP switched their party affiliation to the centre-right Iyi Party, which was established last year, to ensure the party would be eligible for the June 24 election. Party founder Meral Aksener is considered a serious contender against Erdogan and has announced her candidacy.

Aksener defected from the Erdogan-allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2016 over the president's bid to strengthen the role of the executive. 

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