May 29, 2023

After deliberations that lasted for months and following deep disagreements between its parties, the opposition six-party table in Turkey chose the head of the Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as a consensual candidate for it to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Although some other parties are expected to present candidates for the presidency, it has become a foregone conclusion that the real competition in the elections will be between Kilicdaroglu and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

elements of strength

It is logical and expected in any country for the opposition leader to run in the presidential elections in front of the ruling president, but the Turkish opposition leader did not do that before; Kilicdaroglu was elected to the presidency of the Republican People’s Party in 2010, but he did not run in the 2014 or 2018 presidential elections against Erdogan, despite the criticism leveled at him for not running.

Today, there are many variables that made the man see in the upcoming elections an unprecedented opportunity for the possibility of winning the presidency, relying on several of his strengths or weaknesses of his opponent, foremost of which is the conditions that have changed in the country during the past years and the developments it has witnessed, which in all have led to a decline. The presence and popularity of the Justice and Development Party, and the desire of many for change, especially young people, such as the problems of the economy, the Corona pandemic, and the recent earthquake.

One of the most important factors of Kılıçdaroğlu’s strength is his presidency of the largest opposition party, and that he has decided the leadership in it to a large extent in his favor, after he dismissed the prominent leader, Muharram Ince, and blocked the way for the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, which means that behind him is a strong and experienced party and organizational machine that will work in favor of his election campaign.

Among these factors is the consensus of the six-party table to present him as a consensual candidate, despite the differences that have surfaced and the feeling that part of this consensus was coerced. On the one hand, the man here benefits from the image of the consensus of the parties that represent a diverse spectrum in the Turkish street, between Islamists, conservatives, nationalists, and liberals, and on the other hand, he benefits from their partisan machinery in the electoral campaign, as he is supposed to.

Also, the man will seek support from outside the parties of the six-party table, and he met with the Left Party and received initial support – and conditional on dialogue – from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, and it is expected that he will have contact with other parties, in an attempt to gather all the opposition behind him.

Among the factors of his strength are his language that differs from the traditional discourse of the Republican People’s Party and the image of change that he made in this context, the policy of reconciliation that he has been keen on during the last two years with the rest of the parties, and his call for reconciliation with those historically angry with his party, as well as the symbolic and important victory of his party, and the People’s Alliance that he led. in the municipalities of Ankara and Istanbul.


It may seem from all of the above that Kilicdaroglu has acquired many distinct strengths that enhance his chances and almost make the path to winning the elections paved for him, but this does not seem accurate. The elections in Turkey in particular are very complex, and men have weaknesses that are difficult to overlook.

In principle, the man does not meet the characteristics of the ideal consensual candidate for the opposition, the most important of which is that he be as neutral as possible in order to be convincing to the various segments of the people, and to be able to persuade them to vote for him, and to be a “safe” and reassuring option for some of Erdogan’s and AKP’s traditional supporters to vote for him. However, the man is politically “disruptive” – ​​so to speak – being the head of the largest opposition party, a party with a clear ideology and a well-known and rich history, and from this angle he is a “disturbing” candidate for some conservative segments in particular.

Also, the man cannot detach from the legacy of his party, the Republican People, along the centenary of the Turkish Republic. Although he began what he called the “path of reconciliation” with the segments of his party that were previously affected, but for many he remains the president and candidate of the Republican people, and not the consensual candidate for the diverse table.

On a personal level, the man does not have the charisma enjoyed by the heads of Turkish parties in general, in addition to the fact that he had not previously succeeded in defeating Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party on any electoral occasion until now, and he was threatened with the leadership of his party until recently. In addition, his Alawite origins may be an obstacle to some voters voting for him, and this is what leaders in the good party were warning about, and therefore – among other reasons – the president of that party, Meral Aksnar, did not see him as a “candidate capable of winning.”

Likewise, the collective administration in which the man promises with the six-party table that the heads of other parties – and perhaps others – will be his deputies with whom he needs to agree on important and sensitive issues, such as national security affairs, declaring a state of emergency, and even appointing and dismissing ministers, may suggest weakness and inability to make a decision. attitude and making the right decision.

The political culture of the Turkish people in general favors the image of a strong and charismatic leader who is capable of rhetoric, leadership and influence, and this was remarkably reinforced after the presidential system. And if the opposition wants to present an example of collective reason versus individual administration, it risks raising the concerns of some regarding its ability to agree, especially since it comes from different and sometimes contradictory backgrounds, and its disagreements last week were a negative example from this point of view.

Likewise, the elections – especially in Turkey – are not an accurate and direct mathematical process, but rather are subject to multiple, complex and intertwined political, social and cultural equations, and many inputs and many actors interfere in determining their results.

Therefore, the fact that the five parties – and others – stand behind the man does not necessarily mean that all the votes of their supporters will be in his favour. On the one hand, these parties – at the forefront of the Islamic and conservative ones – do not have the guarantee that all their supporters will vote for him, and some objections have already appeared within them during the past few days.

In addition, in contrast to the documents issued by the six-party table so far, which were satisfied with the generalities agreed upon, the electoral campaign will force the man to enter into the details of some sensitive issues, and then any position or statement (from him or from the leaders of his party) will have positive effects on some and negative on others. the other. Examples of these issues, on which the parties will have different positions, include reconverting the Hagia Sophia into a museum, returning to the Istanbul Convention on women’s rights, support for homosexuals, the Kurdish issue, and others.

It is also not expected that the party machines and organizational cadres of the rest of the parties will work with the same vigor and enthusiasm of the Republican people, in addition to that the priority of the latter is the presidential elections while the priority of the other parties is the parliamentary elections, which brings the two parties closer to a state of coordination than to a state of alliance and unified position.

In conclusion, the scene of consensus that Kilicdaroglu was keen to present regarding the support provided to him and the rest of the power factors make him a strong competitor in the upcoming elections, even if he is less fortunate than other figures in the opposition. However, he has weaknesses that his opponent Erdogan can invest in, especially since Erdogan is a strong and experienced candidate with extensive experience in the matter of elections in particular, in addition to that he heads the state with what can give him papers and tools to maximize his chances in the upcoming elections, and the coming weeks may bear a surprise of any kind. .

Finally, these elections seem to be the most difficult for Erdogan and the AKP, and they will be held according to completely different dynamics this time, and ideology and charisma will not only decide them, but alliances will mainly interfere in determining the winner, especially if a run-off is required.

In addition, the file of the recent earthquake and the success of the government led by Erdogan in providing quick achievements in it regarding shelter, reconstruction and reviving the stricken cities will have a significant contribution – which may precede many of the aforementioned factors – in determining who wins the upcoming elections. Therefore, as we are about two months away from the elections, it is difficult to say for sure a specific result, but it is possible to monitor the influencing factors, the extent of the street’s interaction with them, and how the electoral campaigns proceed.

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