Good Party (İYİP) Chairwoman Meral Akşener announced on Friday in a scathing speech that her party will no longer participate in the joint opposition candidate process for Turkey’s upcoming presidential elections.
Akşener, who served as Turkey’s interior minister in the 1990s, accused the opposition’s Table of Six of being “no longer capable of reflecting the will of the people in its decisions”.
Five of the six parties in the alliance were in favour of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), running against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Akşener said.
According to the centre-right politician, the constituents refused to discuss other candidates that were reportedly polling better than Kılıçdaroğlu. “With this, we have come to understand that personal ambition was chosen over Turkey,” Akşener said.
The İYİP was forced to “choose between disease and death, just like the Turkish nation has been for years”, said Akşener.
The party stands against both “a freak mindset that has ruined the last twenty years of our country”, and “those who say they could put their jacket up and get it elected”, Akşener said, alluding to Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Kılıçdaroğlu respectively.
Akşener confirmed long-time rumours that her party favoured the candidacy of Ekrem İmamoğlu or Mansur Yavaş, mayors of megacity Istanbul and capital Ankara respectively, who were both elected from the CHP, and called on the mayors to “don the shirt of fire” – an expression inviting either to take on the difficult responsibility of running for president.
“The unity of the state and the independence of the nation is once again at risk, as it was a century ago,” she said, alluding to Turkey’s Independence War.
“Have no concern, all stones will fall into place,” Kılıçdaroğlu said as a first comment on the matter.
While Turkey’s Kurdish voters helped get İmamoğlu elected, ending decades of conservative rule over Istanbul in 2019, Kılıçdaroğlu has stronger support among Kurds. Meanwhile, Yavaş, as a Turkish nationalist politician, is not viewed favourably among this key demographic that could possibly determine the outcome of the vote.
The Kurdish vote is fairly equally divided between the AKP and the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is not part of the Table of Six. HDP officials have in the past made statements in favour of Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy, but as it stands currently, the party is engaged in a separate Labour and Democracy Alliance with left-wing forces in the country and could put up its own candidate.
While Akşener’s popularity has been on the rise in recent years, her party won 9 percent of the vote in the 2018 general elections, only clearing Turkey’s unusually high election threshold of 10 percent and winning seats in parliament due to its Nation Alliance with the CHP.
İYİP was founded in 2017, with defectors from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The MHP later allied itself with the ruling Justice and Development Party and continues to support the government.
The upcoming elections, unofficially scheduled for 14 May, are seen as a watershed moment for the country, that will either completely cement Erdoğan’s rule or allow the opposition to walk back the executive presidential system he installed.
The CHP called an urgent central executive committee meeting in response to the announcement, while the HDP central executive committee plans to meet on Saturday.