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Erdoğan’s meeting with former nationalist opposition leader sparks speculation

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Meral Akşener, the former nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader, had a surprise meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential complex in Ankara on Wednesday, sparking speculation about the purpose of the meeting.

Fahrettin Altun, communications director for President Erdoğan, had announced the meeting scheduled for 5:00 p.m. local time earlier the same day.

The meeting came after then-İYİ leader Akşener was replaced by Müsavat Dervişoğlu, the party’s deputy group chairman and Akşener’s right-hand man, in late April.

Neither Erdoğan nor Akşener issued a statement following their meeting and only posed for photos for the press.

Dervişoğlu, however, said during a live program on Halk TV on Thursday that Akşener called him after she met with the president and said they had talked about Turkey in general, with her refusing to give details due to the “private” nature of the meeting.

CNN Türk’s Ankara representative, Dicle Canova, also reported rumors from İYİ Party headquarters, saying the party wasn’t informed about the meeting beforehand.

Akşener was criticized for the meeting by some İYİ Party members, with Kocaeli lawmaker Lütfü Türkkan saying on X on Wednesday, referring to the former chairperson, that “there are no medals for horses that run after the race is over.”

A video of Akşener’s promise to “fight to the death against Erdoğan,” which she made during an İYİ Party group meeting three years ago, went viral on social media after the meeting, with many accusing Akşener of not keeping her word and softening her stance against Erdoğan for personal gain.

“Even if I die, even if I am killed, even if I am threatened … I am dishonest if I give up this struggle. … These are the words of a Muslim Turkish woman,” Akşener says in the video.

 

Journalist Fatih Altaylı claimed on his YouTube channel that Akşener is seeking the appointment of her son, Fatih Akşener, as an ambassador by Erdoğan’s government, possibly to Paris.

There were also claims that Erdoğan wanted Akşener to assume the leadership of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Akşener’s former political home, whose current chairman, Devlet Bahçeli, is an ally of Erdoğan, because Erdoğan wants to break his alliance with Bahçeli.

In her earlier statements as İYİ Party leader, Akşener refused to join an alliance with Erdoğan’s AKP.

However, some people claim that she was Erdoğan’s “Trojan horse” in the opposition bloc of parties called the “Table of Six,” which nominated a joint candidate, then-Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, against Erdoğan in the presidential election last year. Erdoğan secured yet another term by defeating Kılıçdaroğlu in a runoff election.

The İYİ Party had been a member of the opposition alliance and received 9.9 percent of the nationwide vote and 44 seats in parliament in the May 2023 general election.

The party left the alliance following the May presidential election after Kılıçdaroğlu’s defeat. Akşener initially objected to Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy and left the alliance but later returned.

Erdoğan had called on Akşener in November 2022 to reconsider her party’s position in the political arena. The president said he wished the İYİ Party would undergo a transformation, leave the “Table of Six” and demonstrate an attitude in line with the interests of the nation.

Akşener rebuffed Erdoğan’s call, saying she doesn’t sit at a gambling table where the future of the country could be ruined.

A party congress was called to replace Akşener, who had been at the helm of the party since its founding in 2017, after the party sustained a defeat in the local elections in March. İYİ won only 3.7 percent of the nationwide vote, comprising only one provincial municipality, 23 districts and seven town municipalities.

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