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Opposition party official seeking alliance with Erdoğan dies of coronavirus

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A senior official from Turkey’s Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP) who green-lighted cooperation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Public Alliance, contrary to the stance of the top management of the party, died of coronavirus on Friday, according to Turkish media.

Oğuzhan Asiltürk, 86, died of pneumonia developed due to a coronavirus infection. He was hospitalized last month after contracting the virus.

Asiltürk, who was the head of the SP’s High Advisory Board (YİK), came to public attention earlier this year when Erdoğan visited him at his Ankara home in January and then hosted him in late April at an iftar dinner at the presidential palace, both meetings signaling the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s eagerness to work with the Islamist party.

“May God’s mercy be on our esteemed brother Mr. Oğuzhan Asiltürk, one of the most important names in our political history,” Erdoğan tweeted following Asiltürk’s death.

In June Asiltürk posted a series of tweets in which he implied that an alliance with the AKP — instead of criticizing it — would help increase public support for the SP, which represents Milli Görüş, the precursor of Turkey’s political Islamist movement. However, the SP later released a written statement indicating that their resolute stance against the ruling party’s wrong policies and actions that had created the problems facing the country and its citizens today was obvious and appreciated by a majority of the public.

Formed by the AKP and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Public Alliance has been losing voters for a while, mainly due to the AKP government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic downturn with double-digit inflation.

Local media reports say the AKP-MHP alliance has been looking for new partners since their combined support fell below 50 percent, which is necessary for securing victory in a presidential election, in 2023.

Erdoğan’s efforts to get the SP on his side by means of Asiltürk were seen as his desire to redesign Turkish politics in his favor.

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