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Erdoğan visits main opposition CHP headquarters after 18-year hiatus

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid a visit to the headquarters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Tuesday, marking his first visit to the CHP’s central office in 18 years.

The visit, part of a recent trend toward rapprochement between Turkey’s two largest parties, followed CHP leader Özgür Özel’s visit to Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters on May 2.

Erdoğan was greeted by Özel at the entrance to CHP headquarters, where they shook hands and posed for the media. The two leaders then proceeded to Özel’s office on the 12th floor for a private meeting that lasted about one-and-a-half hours. The meeting was attended by AKP Deputy Chairman Mustafa Elitaş and CHP İstanbul MP Namık Tan, who took notes during the discussion.

The CHP headquarters had heightened security measures already in place, with restricted access to the building and the surrounding area. As part of the preparations, a presidential flag was flown among the flags at the entrance to the CHP building.

The meeting is seen as a continuation of efforts to reduce political tensions and foster dialogue between the government and opposition parties following the March 31 municipal elections.

This visit is significant as it signals a potential thaw in relations between the AKP and CHP, which have been fierce political rivals for years. It took place against the backdrop of the recent local elections, which saw the CHP emerge victorious after 47 years, relegating the AKP to second place for the first time in 22 years.

Erdoğan and Özel did not hold a joint press conference after the meeting, and no official statements were made.

Economy, new constitution discussed in landmark meeting

According to CHP sources speaking to the Turkish media, the 90-minute meeting covered a range of topics, including Turkey’s economic challenges, the appointment of a trustee as mayor of the southeastern city of Hakkari to replace the newly elected Kurdish mayor, a new constitution and high-profile judicial cases.

Erdoğan emphasized the necessity of a new constitution, while Özel stressed the importance of adhering to the current constitution and Constitutional Court rulings. Özel also highlighted the need for societal consensus for any new constitutional effort and suggested collaboration on key issues, including university rector appointments.

The economic situation was a critical topic. Özel proposed a mid-year increase in the minimum wage and aligning the lowest pension with the minimum wage. He also discussed agricultural product prices and urged for a fair pricing system, suggesting a more equitable tax system.

High-profile judicial cases and the practice of appointing trustees in local governments were also addressed. Özel criticized the trustee policy, arguing it undermines democracy and the constitution. Erdoğan defended the government’s stance and said he supported mayors serving the public but not those “aiding terrorist organizations.”

The meeting ended without a joint press conference, with Özel later briefing the CHP Central Executive Board on the details.

Erdoğan’s previous visit to CHP headquarters was during his tenure as prime minister in 2006, for the inauguration of the new CHP building, when Deniz Baykal was CHP leader.

There is deep skepticism about the potential for real political change in Turkey under the current government.

Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country, where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.

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