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Turkey’s opposition ends saga, names Kilicdaroglu as Erdogan challenger

Recovering from a major blow to its unity last week, Turkey’s leading opposition bloc has finally announced a joint candidate to run against Erdogan.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu makes a press statement at his party's headquarters in Ankara, on September 16, 2020. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

ANKARA — Ending a five-day saga over the fate of Turkey's opposition alliance, the country's six opposition parties announced Monday that main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu would be their joint candidate to run against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the country's fateful presidential elections expected to be held on May 14.

Speaking flanked by the five other opposition party heads, Felicity Party leader Temel Karamollaoglu said the parties agreed to nominate Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kilicdaroglu as their joint candidate.  

Speaking after him, Kilicdaroglu said the five opposition leaders in the alliance would serve as vice presidents under Kilicdaroglu should the bloc win the presidential elections, adding that the parties also agreed on a 12-point road map to turn the country back to the parliamentary system from Erdogan's executive presidency, which the government critics call one-man rule.

On the road map, the parties pledged to create a decision-making process based on consensus and consultation on important issues. Every party within the alliance will be represented by at least one minister in the cabinet formed under the new government. 

Kilicdaroglu also pledged to resign from his party for the sake of neutrality once the transition to the parliamentary system is concluded, according to the deal.

Thousands of opposition supporters gathered in front of the tiny Islamist Felicity Party's headquarters in Ankara where the six leaders met to cheer the announcement. The opposition bloc also includes the the Democrat Party and two offshoots of the ruling party: the Deva and Future parties.

The announcement is the result of a compromise struck between the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Iyi Party over Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy. The reconciliation was achieved after intense shuttle diplomacy between the six parties' heavyweights over the weekend as they fought to keep the opposition alliance intact in the face of Iyi Party leader Meral Aksener's strong objection to Kilicdaroglu's nomination. 

Under the road map, the president would also appoint the CHP mayors of Ankara and Istanbul as vice presidents “at a time when he sees fit.” 

In a bombshell speech on Friday, Aksener vilified Kilicdaroglu and the other opposition parties, fanning speculation that her party was leaving the alliance. The Iyi Party has been pressing the bloc to field either Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas or Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to run in the elections, citing polls giving either a better chance against Erdogan. 

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