İstanbul’s popular mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has said he supports party chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to run as the opposition’s joint presidential candidate in the next elections scheduled for June 2023 amid survey results showing İmamoğlu as a potential and popular candidate.
İmamoğlu, who ended the years-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in İstanbul by defeating the party’s candidate in the 2019 local elections, is frequently cited among possible presidential candidates who will run against the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in 2023.
“The presidential candidate [favored by] every CHP member, and I’m one of them, is the chairman of their own party. It’s Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He is my [favored] candidate, too,” İmamoğlu said during a program on FOX TV on Tuesday.
“Of course, there is an important process awaiting Turkey. Six political parties … will make a decision for the future of this country,” İmamoğlu said, referring to the presidential candidate’s nomination by the opposition parties.
“Will we watch from afar? Never… I’m the mayor of İstanbul. Ekrem İmamoğlu, who runs a city with one-fourth of [Turkey’s] population and 50 percent of its economy, should, of course, be the guarantor of this process,” he added.
The mayor’s remarks came after Kılıçdaroğlu expressed a willingness to run for president in the 2023 elections during an interview with Reuters in February.
“Of course, five party leaders [naming] me as the candidate would be an honor. It also means they have trust,” the CHP leader told Reuters, adding that it was “very obvious and very clear” that whomever they choose will become president.
Since late 2021, surveys have shown both İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, Ankara’s popular mayor, also from the CHP, having a considerable nationwide lead, as much as 10 percent in some polls, over current president Erdoğan in a possible presidential election.
Both mayors had expressed in 2021 that they had no intention of standing as a presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, although Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, the CHP’s election ally, previously stated that they would not object to such a development.
“… İmamoğlu backs … Kılıçdaroğlu as the presidential candidate in 2023. A bit surprising announcement as he was giving every signal that he himself wanted to run,” journalist Ragıp Soylu said in a tweet, on which another journalist, Cansu Çamlıbel, commented, saying, “Sounds like a tactic to me…”
Sounds like a tactic to me… https://t.co/OQqa5IZQCx
— Cansu Çamlıbel (@cansucamlibel) April 5, 2022
The first meeting of the leaders of six Turkish opposition parties to strategize about the future of the country’s system of governance took place in Ankara on Feb 12.
Among the participants of the meeting were Temel Karamollaoğlu from the Islamist Felicity Party (SP); the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA)’s Ali Babacan; the Future Party (GP)’s Ahmet Davutoğlu; and the Democrat Party’s (DP) Gültekin Uysal in addition to Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener.
The meeting received mixed reactions from Turks amid criticism that not inviting the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to the meeting meant ignoring Turkey’s Kurdish population.
The CHP and the İYİ Party had established the Nation Alliance before the 2018 elections. It is not yet clear whether the four other parties will join this alliance or continue under another name.
Although the opposition leaders did not mention Erdoğan by name at the meeting, their clear goal is to find a way to work together to unseat Erdoğan, expected to be the presidential nominee of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).