Turkish opposition talks up prospects for life after Erdogan

In an interview for EURACTIV, the Chief Advisor to the Turkish Presidential Candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Saadetin Kilic, discusses the approaching general elections in Turkey and outlined the vision of the opposition leader.

With Turkish general elections scheduled for 14 May Independent opinion polls suggest that Kilicdaroglu is running neck and neck with President Recep Tayip Erdogan, who has been in power for more than two decades. To win in the first round one of the candidates has to reach 50%.

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In February 2022, the CHP(Republican People’s Party) united with five other parties – Good Party, Felicity Party, Democrat Party, Democracy and Progress Party and Future Party, to form an electoral alliance of the ‘Table of Six’, also known as as the Nation Alliance (Millet Ittfakı).

In March 2023 Kilicdaroglu was declared the joint opposition candidate for the presidential elections. The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, and the mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, have also announced their support for Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy.

Years of economic mismanagement have led to increasing inflation and the devaluation of the Turkish lira, losing 30% of its value against the dollar in 2022. The CHP and their leader have promised to find new investment and economic solutions to stabilize the Turkish economy.

“We are going to work closely with the West and Europe and we expect big investments in Turkey. For that Mr. Kilicdaroglu has already been to the United Kingdom to have first talks with investors about new investments in Turkey. We will be making Turkey a better hub for investments and a place where businesses can open up for investments more freely and openly within the free market system.” said Saadetin Kilic.

The new vision for Turkey?

In 2017 the Turkish Parliament adopted a controversial 18-article constitutional amendment package that entrenched power with the presidency. A nationwide referendum took place same year, giving the president unprecedented powers, including increased influence over parliament and the courts.

In 2021 Kilicdaroglu and the CHP set out 29 principles to strengthen the parliamentary system and pushed for a stronger role for the parliament.

“We believe that the Turkish people will strongly support the return to the parliamentary system.” commented Kilic.

He adds that Kilicdaroglu would quickly move towards having closer relations with the EU.

“We fully support European integration and we see ourselves aligned with the European values, rights and freedoms. We will fully support Turkey’s full accession to the European Union as we want to expand our partnership with the European countries.” Kilic said.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan has tried to balance fostering military cooperation with Kyiv while refusing to join the Western sanctions against Russia, offering Moscow a substantial economic lifeline. In return Turkey secured economic favours to boost its own economy, including a 25% discount on the price of Russian gas and a Russian company building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

The position of Kilicdaroglu is not going to change significantly, as economic cooperation with Russia will be continued even if Erdogan is ousted. Kilicdaroglu also promotes peaceful negotiations and has offered himself as a possible mediator.

“Our policy stand in regard to the Ukraine-Russia war is based on the idea ‘Peace at home, Peace in the world’, hence, we support peaceful dialogue between our neighbouring countries, which includes Ukraine and Russia.”

“We want people both in Ukraine and Russia to live safely on their territory, without anyone violating their territorial integrity or sovereignty. Therefore, we want the military action to cease as quickly as possible and we will work in that direction,” explained Saadetin Kilic.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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