ISTANBUL: Turkey’s opposition picks the man it thinks can beat President Erdogan, Israel kills six Palestinians in a Jenin raid, and it’s been a month since the earthquakes that devastated Turkey and Syria.
Many observers think that the political opposition in Turkey has its best chance yet of unseating the long-time leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in May’s presidential election. The economy used to be one of Erdogan’s main selling points, but it’s struggled for years now, and inflation just keeps going up. The opposition in all its many different forms, including defectors from among Erdogan’s closest allies has come together in the past few years, and scored some notable victories, such as in the 2019 mayoral races in Istanbul and Ankara. And last month’s devastating earthquakes, which killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey, have led to questions over the government’s response, and the seemingly lax enforcement of housing regulations that are believed to have led to the collapse of so many buildings and yet, the events of the past week may help explain some of the reasons why the opposition has landed so few serious blows against Erdogan and his AK Party in two decades of parliamentary and presidential elections. At first it seemed that six opposition parties were in agreement over their candidate for president, namely the head of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Sure, the 74-year-old economist isn’t exactly the most charismatic guy, and he’s overseen the party’s electoral losses in the last decade. And yes, as a member of the Alevi religious minority, he probably won’t appeal to many Turkish nationalists. Still, a unified opposition ought to give him at least a fighting chance of getting over the line but then Meral Aksener, leader of the opposition’s main nationalist bloc (there’s a pro-government nationalist bloc, too, stay with me) decided that, well actually, Kilicdaroglu wasn’t up to the job, and publicly announced that the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara would be better choices. Cue a weekend of emergency opposition talks, a return to the table for Aksener and crisis averted, the opposition united behind Kilicdaroglu again.
Has Aksener’s play weakened Kilicdaroglu? Or has the eventual demonstration of public unity strengthened the opposition? Depends who you ask. But one thing is for sure don’t write off Erdogan just yet. (Int’l News Desk)