As the leaders of Turkey’s two main opposition parties got together on Friday in an effort to agree on a joint candidate for the upcoming presidential election, sources from both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) talked in a hopeful mood that the effort may well bear fruit.
“It has been a positive meeting. We are seeking a consensus for the candidate to be an all-embracing personality. After this consensus is reached, we will seek a consensus on a [potential] candidate,” Oktay Vural, deputy parliamentary group chairman of the MHP, told Today’s Zaman.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Friday received MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli in his office in Parliament to discuss the two parties’ plans for a common candidate in the August presidential election.
Contact between the parties will continue in the following days. In addition to a return visit the CHP leader will pay to the MHP leader, officials of the two opposition parties will come together once again to decide on a joint candidate. “The next talk [other than the CHP’s return visit] might be a tête-à-tête between the leaders [of the two parties],” Engin Altay, CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman, told Today’s Zaman.
The two opposition parties view the issue of selecting a presidential candidate as important as the survival of the Turkish Republic, as they see Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who will most probably run for president on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) ticket, as a threat for the country, not only because the prime minister is known to use discourse that creates deep division between segments of the Turkish society, but he is also claimed to be implicated in corruption.
The two opposition leaders told media after the meeting that they had a “positive and mature” exchange of opinions on the presidential election. “The [series of] meetings will continue if necessary,” Bahçeli said. The MHP leader also said they did not discuss any names for a potential candidate. Kılıçdaroğlu said they discussed the qualifications of a candidate for president rather than names.
The meeting between Kılıçdaroğlu and Bahçeli came after the former visits to labor unions. In his visits to the Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen) and the confederation of civil servants’ union Birleşik Kamu-İş, the CHP leader asked the unions’ officials for their opinions on what they would like to see in a presidential candidate.
The ruling AK Party has not officially announced its candidate, but it is widely agreed that the party will choose current Prime Minister Erdoğan as its presidential nominee.
The MHP and the CHP are vehemently opposed to the prime minister running for president. They strongly criticize Erdoğan for his dismissive discourse toward those who do not vote for the AK Party. They also believe that Erdoğan will not be a suitable president due to graft allegations leveled against him in the aftermath of a major police operation that was launched on Dec. 17 of last year. There are claims that the prime minister and several of his family members are implicated in corruption and bribery. Thus, the two parties are considering nominating a joint candidate in the presidential election to boost their chances against the AK Party.
After his meeting with Kamu-Sen officials, Kılıçdaroğlu told the media that they discussed the qualifications of a potential candidate for president. “We will make a decision [for presidential candidate] in the light of opinions we obtain from wide segments of the society. We want to follow a healthy and sound policy,” he noted. According to the CHP leader, the candidate for president must be a person who sides with peace and tolerance and says no to polarization and otherification of people.
Kılıçdaroğlu also said people should preserve their common sense in the weekend and ensuing days as, he claimed, the government will work to provoke the people on the first anniversary of the Gezi Park protests. “The government is provoking people. We want peace in our country. Our citizens should be watchful against any attempt at provocation,” he stated.
Following a meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu at the headquarters of Birleşik Kamu-İş later in the day, the union’s president İsmail Tutoğlu said the CHP leader asked about the union’s opinion about a potential candidate for the presidential election. “We told the CHP chairman that we are expecting a presidential candidate who supports workers’ rights. The candidate should also respect the republic’s values and principles,” he noted.
Kılıçdaroğlu later received MHP leader Bahçeli in his office in Parliament. Three parliamentary group deputy chairmen from both parties also attended the meeting. News sources said a second meeting between the CHP and MHP leaders is likely in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu spoke to reporters and dismissed rumors that the opposition parties are making plans to nominate President Abdullah Gül as a common candidate in August’s election. The CHP leader said Gül lost his impartiality due to his siding with the AK Party in a number of recent political developments and added, “We have no plans on our agenda about Gül.”
Earlier this week, some Turkish newspapers reported that MHP leader Bahçeli has asked Gül to run as presidential candidate representing the country’s opposition parties in August. The two met on May 21. Bahçeli, however, denied the claims.
Also on Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu paid visits to the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD) and the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) as part of his party’s ongoing efforts to select a candidate to run for president in August.
Turkey will for the first time elect a president by popular vote in this summer’s presidential election. If a candidate receives more than half of the votes in the first round of the election, which will be held on Aug. 10, that candidate will be elected president. If no candidate manages to obtain more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, then the two candidates with the most votes in the first round will compete in a runoff. The candidate who receives the most votes in the runoff will be elected president and serve a five-year term.