Turkey’s main coalition of opposition parties must break away from the discourse laid out by the ruling party and form links with the Kurdish political movement or it will lose the crucial 2023 presidential election, leading pollster Bekir Ağırdır said in a televised discussion.
It will be impossible for the opposition to defeat President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the election without coordinating efforts with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Ağırdır suggested last week during Ruşen Çakır’s talk show on the independent media platform Medyascope.
“Anyone, regardless of ideology, who sincerely places the country’s future before their own future and political career should think of this: if they can’t beat Erdoğan at the first round, there’s no way they’ll win at the second,” he said.
Turkey’s presidential elections are held over two rounds, with several candidates competing in the first and, if none are able to win an absolute majority of votes, the most popular pair facing each other head-to-head in a second round.
Ağırdır’s remarks on the need for unity among opposition parties came after the pollster referred to the possibility that a Kurdish candidate could stand during the first round of the election.
The HDP, which commanded more than 10 percent of the vote during the last vote in 2018, has entered a formal alliance with a slew of smaller left-wing parties ahead of the coming elections and could gain an even larger portion of the vote as a result.
Yet the main opposition alliance of six parties, headed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and centrist-nationalist Good Party, has refrained from courting Kurdish voters due to resistance from Turkish nationalists in their bloc.
Good Party leader Meral Akşener vowed earlier this month that her party “would not sit at a table” with the HDP after a news report suggested the pro-Kurdish party could be handed a ministry if the opposition wins in 2023.
Despite this stubborn refusal to co-operate with the Kurdish political movement, Erdoğan and his allies have frequently accused the opposition bloc of siding with Kurdish militants.
Some observers say that by ignoring Kurdish voters, who have already played a crucial role in the opposition’s stunning victories in 2019’s local elections, the CHP-led bloc has allowed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to set the country’s narrative. This, Ağırdır said, would be a grave mistake for the opposition.
“Before anything else, the most important matter for the six (opposition parties) is seizing control of the discourse,” he said. “Right now, the government defines the discourse and all the terms of how and where it is discussed. You’re trying to pursue your political agenda within the limits imposed by the government, and you’re coming apart every time.”
And, if Ağırdır’s belief that an opposition victory is only possible in the first round, then courting the Kurdish vote may prove decisive to the opposition’s hopes of winning the presidency.
“If you ask me, Tayyip [Erdoğan]’s whole strategy is to survive to the second round,” Ağırdır said.
Ağırdır’s KONDA is one of Turkey’s leading polling companies.