Turkey’s main opposition CHP announces Muharrem İnce as presidential candidate

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Friday announced CHP Yalova deputy Muharrem İnce as its candidate for the June 24 snap presidential election. İnce’s name was announced by CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during a party gathering at Ahmet Taner Kışlalı Gym in Ankara.

İnce, a vocal critic of his own party, twice lost the leadership race to Kılıçdaroğlu at the CHP’s general congress in 2014 and 2018. In May 2016 he also voted against revoking the parliamentary immunity of deputies, legislation that primarily targeted Kurdish members of parliament.

A veteran CHP lawmaker from Yalova, Muharrem İnce, 53, is a former physics teacher. İnce has been in Parliament since 2002. Acclaimed as the “best demagogue” in the main opposition party, a fervent 10-minute speech he gave to the general assembly in 2013  went viral on the Internet.

On Friday, İnce has vowed to be the president of 80 million if elected in the polls on June 24. “I will be the president of 80 million, of rightists and leftists, of Alevis and Sunnis, of Turks and Kurds. I will be an impartial president,” İnce said in his address to CHP fellows in a crowded hall after CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu announced him as the nominee.

In a sign of his impartiality, he removed his CHP pin and wore another one with the Turkish flag on it. “Everything will be much more beautiful. We will write history on June 24,” he said.

After Kılıçdaroğlu implied that the candidate would be a successful economist, either Abdüllatif Şener or Ali Babacan were claimed to be the CHP’s choice. Inside the CHP, however, several party members argued beforehand that the candidate should be “one of us.” Apart from İnce, veteran politicians İlhan Kesici and Yılmaz Büyükerşen were believed to be possibilities.

The results of a public survey may have played a role in the party’s nomination of İnce for presidential candidacy, according to journalist Fatih Altaylı.

In his column in the Haber Türk daily on Friday, Altaylı talked about a public survey conducted by the Konsensus polling company in which respondents were asked about the chances of possible CHP candidates in the second round of voting in the presidential election against the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the presidential candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ultra-nationalist ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)

The question asked respondents who they would support in the second round of voting if nobody is elected in the first round. The possible CHP candidates were CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu, CHP deputy Kesici, former chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ and İnce.

The results showed Kılıçdaroğlu 42,3 percent while Erdoğan at 57,7 percent, Kesici at 39,9 percent while Erdoğan at 60,1 percent, Başbuğ at 42,3 percent while Erdoğan at 57,7 percent and İnce at 44,9 percent while Erdoğan at 55,1 percent. Altaylı wrote the results of this survey may have played a role in Kılıçdaroğlu’s decision to eliminate the other possible candidates and nominate İnce.

Also, it was claimed that six deputies from the MHP have refused to lend their signatures in support of the presidential candidacy of incumbent Erdoğan. According to the Yeniçağ daily, out of the 35 MHP deputies in Parliament, 29 signed on to Erdoğan’s candidacy while six of them refused to do so.

The MHP formed an election alliance with the AKP and decided to support Erdoğan’s candidacy. The party has not fielded its own candidate, a move that has led to criticism and disappointment among some MHP supporters and deputies.

Also on Friday, the İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to officially become a presidential candidate during the first four hours of her campaign, according to the T24 news website, making her the first independent candidate to be acknowledged by the Turkey’s Higher Board of Election (YSK).

Previously, 15 deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) joined the İYİ Party as part of a tactical move to enable the new party to run in the snap presidential and parliamentary elections.

However, Akşener wanted to apply to the YSK as an independent candidate in order to show that she could collect the 100,000 signatures needed. ‘We are right to trust our nation,’ said Akşener after meeting with supporters in İstanbul’s Üsküdar district.

Selahattin Demirtaş

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is preparing to ask YSK to ensure release of jailed HDP deputy Selahattin Demirtaş, who is the party’s presidential candidate, during the campaigning period for the presidential election, Turkish media reports said on Friday.

The HDP’s candidate Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 along with several other HDP deputies on terror charges. He is still in pre-trial detention.

HDP lawyers will make an application at the YSK for the release of Demirtaş so that the presidential election could take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all the presidential candidates.

Demirtaş’s campaign will reportedly appeal to voters of all parties and highlight a normalization process in Turkey. If he is not released from prison, Demirtaş will carry out his campaign with messages he will send from prison through his lawyers.

Demirtaş ran against incumbent President Erdoğan in the 2014 presidential election and lost. However, he stayed as one of the most popular political figures since. Erdoğan is the ruling AKP’s presidential candidate for the June 24 elections.

Moreover, the Felicity Party (SP) announced on Tuesday that the party’s chairman, Temel Karamollaoğlu, would be its presidential candidate in the election on June 24.

The İYİ Party recently named the party’s chairwoman, Meral Akşener, to represent it in the election.

Abdullah Gül

A move by Karamollaoğlu to put forward former President Abdullah Gül failed last week. Gül on Saturday said he would not challenge President Erdoğan in the snap presidential election, underlining that his decision was due to a lack of consensus between opposition parties.

“I said I would not turn down the responsibility if a general consensus were reached. I appreciate Mr. Temel’s efforts. It seems there is not such a general demand after all. I will not be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election,” he said.

Turkish media reported that President Erdoğan on Thursday sent Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Erdoğan advisor İbrahim Kalın to talk to Gül in an effort to prevent his candidacy.

CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday criticized Akar’s visit to Gül to talk about his possible run against Erdoğan, calling it “tutelage.”

On Friday, Gül has confirmed that Chief of General Staff Gen. Akar and Kalın paid him a visit but said it was a courtesy call and not intended to prevent his presidential candidacy as claimed. Speaking to reporters following Friday prayers in İstanbul, Gül said that “It [the visit] took place in public view. It was not secret. It was a courtesy visit. There was no threat or act of disrespect.”

The story about the visit was first published by the Habertürk daily, which later deleted this story from its website and then fired Barış Erkaya, the editor of its website, in a development indicating that it had angered Erdoğan.

Last Saturday, Gül announced that he would not be a candidate in the snap presidential election on June 24, underlining that his decision was due to a lack of consensus between opposition parties.

Holding a press conference in İstanbul, Gül said his name was first mentioned by Felicity Party (SP) leader Karamollaoğlu and that many others also proposed he run for the top post. He said he would have been a candidate if a general consensus had been reached.

“I said I would not turn down the responsibility if a general consensus were reached. I appreciate Mr. Temel’s efforts. It seems there is not such a general demand after all. I will not be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election,” he added.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and general elections on June 24, almost a year and a half earlier than scheduled. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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