Turkey’s Zafer (‘Victory’) Party (ZP) leader Ümit Özdağ, on Wednesday announced his party’s support for the main opposition bloc’s joint presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the country’s upcoming presidential election runoff.
Both leaders were required to sign a protocol outlining cooperation on certain issues before far-right leader Özdağ was able to express his support for centre-left Kılıçdaroğlu. The protocol highlights the current government’s practice of replacing mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with government-appointed trustees, a practice that has drawn international condemnation for undermining democracy in Turkey.
Despite Kılıçdaroğlu’s previous objection to the dismissal of mayors, the Kılıçdaroğlu-Özdağ protocol states that should the opposition secure victory in the second round, the appointment of state officials over local administrators with “legally proven connections to terrorism” will continue under “judicial decisions”. It is worth noting that there is a subtle distinction between the current practice and the protocol, as the latter suggests that such convicted administrators can be dismissed from mayoral positions only under judicial ruling rather than on governmental order, as is the case currently.
The significance of the protocol lies in Kılıçdaroğlu’s strong support in Kurdish-majority provinces where the HDP is influential. The HDP and the Green Left Party, which endorsed Kılıçdaroğlu in the first round, is expected to issue a statement regarding the protocol.
The ZP, which received 2.23 per cent of the vote (equivalent to over 1.5 million votes) in the 14 May parliamentary election, led the right-wing electoral Ancestor Alliance (ATA). ATA’s presidential candidate, Sinan Oğan, was defeated in the first round of the presidential election with just over five per cent of the vote.
As the elections headed towards a second round, Oğan pledged support for incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while Özdağ has chosen to support Kılıçdaroğlu, despite the two parties’ prior ATA affiliation. ATA’s Adalet Party (AP) also back Kılıçdaroğlu in the runoff.
The political choice of ATA’s presidential candidate “does not represent or bind the ZP”, said party leader Özdağ.
“Supporting the government was not part of our plan,” Özdağ added, disassociating himself from both Oğan and the ATA.
The ZP is known for holding a strong anti-migrant stance. “Just as a swimmer cannot swim with twenty-kilogram weights tied to their legs, a country cannot properly stabilise its economy and security with 13 million refugees,” Özdağ said.
Ultra-nationalist politician Oğan targeted Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) during his announcement to support Erdoğan in the runoff. “The HDP, which is an extension of terrorism, will not have the power to decide the president,” he said.