Can “Turkish Gandhi” overthrow the ailing Erdogan after 20 years?

Chasing President Erdogan off his throne after twenty years: This is the difficult task that awaits opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the presidential elections. Will the 74-year-old Alawi succeed in his mission to save Turkish democracy?

John Lelong

On May 14, Turks will elect a new parliament and a new president. But for the 3.4 million eligible Turks living abroad, the polls have already begun. There is a lot at stake. According to the weekly economists The outcome of the elections will determine whether Türkiye remains a democracy.

The main rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for 20 years, is Kemal Kilicdaroglu. He is a veteran of Turkish politics. He has led Turkey’s centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) for more than a decade and has been campaigning against Erdogan for a long time. Although this is also a reason for suspicion, because for all that time Kilicdaroglu did not manage to win the elections – despite street protests, a failed coup and Erdogan’s introduction of the presidential system.

In his favour, he will head a coalition of six opposition parties, the Table of Six, for the first time. “In the regional elections in 2019, the opposition parties really united,” says Turkey expert Yost Lagendik by phone from Istanbul. This then made profits in big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. That is why now they want to repeat this formula.

What strengthens his candidacy is that Kilicdaroglu has already indicated that he will elect the mayors of Ankara and Istanbul as his vice-president if he wins. “It’s very popular,” says Lagendijk. Some opposition parties would have preferred that one of them stand as a candidate. However, Kilicdaroglu takes a smart approach to it, because wherever he goes to speak, he takes them on stage.”

See also  These 6 travel stories will make you dream away

Kilicdaroglu is not known as the most charismatic leader or talented speaker. However, many Turks believe his grounded thinking and personality make him the leader the country could use right now. “He is known as a very calm and patient person,” said Sinem Aydın Dozgit, a professor of international relations at Sabancı University in Istanbul. “He’s someone who thinks in the long term. You see that in shaping the opposition front, but also in reforming his party.”

During his thirteen years at the helm of the CHP, Kilicdaroglu staged a quiet revolution within the party. The Republican People’s Party was founded at that time by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. For a long time the party had a distinctly secular personality and was an outspoken supporter of banning headscarves in public. “Kilijdaroglu has transformed the party into a broader social democratic party, which also reaches out to different religions,” says Lagendik. For example, Kilicdaroglu acknowledged that banning the headscarf was a mistake, and suggested that the right to wear the headscarf be included in the law.

In 2017, Kilicdaroglu emerged as the leader of the opposition. He led the “March for Justice” from Ankara to Istanbul, where tens of thousands of people marched to protest Erdogan’s authoritarian policies. That protest march earned him the nickname “Turkish Gandhi,” also because little Kilicdaroglu bore a physical resemblance to the hero of the Indian resistance.

Kilicdaroglu also receives support from the Alevis, a religious minority in Turkey that makes up about 10 to 30 percent of the population. Although it was no secret that Kilicdaroglu is an Alevi, he only recently came out in public. The video has already been viewed 100 million times. “By embracing that identity, he really pushed the boundaries,” says Aydin Dozgit. “Alevis have always been discriminated against and persecuted.”

See also  Temperatures rise to 48 degrees

Erdogan’s opponents hope that this election will be the occasion. Erdoğan came under fire when it emerged after the catastrophic earthquakes that he had issued years of amnesty for construction violations. And now Erdoğan is also forced to cancel campaign appearances for the next month due to health issues.

Does Kilicdaroglu’s victory mean a big change? What is certain is that he wants to transfer power from the president to parliament as was the case before 2018. According to Lagendijk, the election of Kilicdaroglu will also mean a big change from an economic point of view. Last year, Turkey’s inflation rate reached 55 percent. Erdogan was of the opinion that interest rates should fall when inflation rose. Obviously, this recipe did not work.” “Kilijdaroglu in this sense will represent a return to more traditional economic policies.”

Kilicdaroglu is also expected to stop thousands of lawsuits for insulting the president. At the international level, he is expected to take a western path, for example by resuming the EU accession process and by agreeing to NATO membership for Sweden.

However, there are also many question marks about Kilicdaroglu’s potential policy, for example about the fate of nearly four million Syrian refugees in Turkey. “The opposition has clearly indicated that they want these people to return to Syria,” says Lagendijk. “The European Union, of course, views this with a critical eye.”

Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *