Turkish opposition divided over presidential candidate

The rivalry between Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the staunchly secular main Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the CHP lawmakers began when ex-Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was nominated as a presidential candidate.

Turkish opposition divided over presidential candidate

World Bulletin / News Desk

Criticism fromTurkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) members against the CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu's and the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) joint presidential candidate, former Secretary-General of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, continued to pour in following the announcement of the candidate's nomination on Monday.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu has vowed to not allow dissidents to appoint another figure from the party for presidency, while acknowledging he took a great risk by nominating Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu for the post.

“I have taken a risk by appointing this candidate. If I would have appointed a figure suitable for my party alone that would not have been a risk, but I do not want my country be dragged into an adventure. I do not want a regime change. That’s why our candidate has to be someone that can get votes from the left and right,” Kilicdaroglu said in a televised interview late June 19.

Kilicdaroglu said he was sure there would be strong reactions, especially from within the CHP, against appointing Ihsanoglu,“We are a party that is made up of different opinions, but if the party has decided to appoint a certain figure, there cannot be a second CHP candidate. I won’t allow this. I have changed many things in the CHP. Everyone can freely express their own views in this party.”

Some CHP lawmakers with nationalistic leanings have harshly criticized Kilicdaroglu for not appointing someone from within CHP ranks and agreeing on an individual known for his Islamic background.

CHP's Association of Republican Women members held a press conference in the western city of Izmir. Head of the association, Dr. Canan Aritman stated that they cannot even pronounce Ihsanoglu's name correctly, referring to this name's relatively unknown etymological background, which is Arabic, not Turkish.

Expressing the association's expectation from CHP's presidential candidate, Aritman said that they expected a secular, democratic candidate who supported the principles and reforms of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal. Aritman added that they want a candidate who believes in the superiority of law and indivisible integrity of the country and nation.

"He does not suit the candidate profile of the Republican Women whatsoever, that is why we [the association] declared that we will neither support Ihsanoglu nor vote for him."

Describing Ihsanoglu as a religious figure who adopted Sunni political Islam as a lifestyle, Aritman said that it is unacceptable that Ihsanoglu will be a probable president of secular democratic Turkey.

Aritman alleged that this move of the opposition is only supporting the AK Party in the presidential election. Aritman also demanded a withdrawal of Ihsanoglu's candidacy in the press release.

Along with many lawmakers that are opposing the nomination of Ihsanoğlu, the CHP has lost its Alevi support for the presidential election. The Alevi Bektashi Federation (ABF) released a statement on Wednesday in which it said Ihsanoglu, who comes from the conservative segment of the public, couldn't be the presidential nominee of the Alevi community.

Responding to criticisms that Ihsanoglu’s name was proposed to the CHP by Saudi Arabia through current President Abdullah Gül and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli, Kilicdaroglu said these were conspiracy theories that have no validity.

“I just wanted someone without a political identity. But at the same time, the person should be intellectual, peaceful, know the world and embrace everyone,” he said, adding he and his party fellows conducted heavy research to find someone who matches this criteria.

“I did not find anything negative about Mr. Ekmeleddin,” Kilicdaroglu said, “And then I took this name to Mr. Bahceli as our proposal and he accepted it. What do I say about these claims about Saudi Arabia? I laugh at them. Mr. Ekmeleddin believes in gender equality and that has no place in Saudi Arabia.”

The Turkish prime minister yesterday held a press conference and responded journalists' questions regarding Ihsanoglu's presidential candidacy, Erdogan said, "My nation will give the best answer" and added that the joint candidacy system has no base. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Haziran 2014, 15:08