Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, said he saw no purpose for Ankara’s Russian missile defense purchases which triggered US sanctions and would overhaul the Central Bank if victorious in elections due by June 2023.
His party is one of six in an alliance aiming to oust President Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP). Here are descriptions of some of the key opposition figures in Turkish politics:
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu, 72, has led the center-left, secularist party since 2010. Under his leadership the CHP has failed to close the gap with Erdogan’s AKP in parliamentary elections. With support holding between 22-26% in general elections, critics have questioned his ability to push the CHP to the top nationally. Kilicdaroglu was a civil servant who ran the social security institution before entering politics and he is a favorite target of Erdogan’s criticism in speeches. His profile rose in 2017 when he led an opposition march from Ankara to Istanbul to protest the jailing of one of his party’s lawmakers.
IYI Party leader Meral Aksener
Former interior minister Meral Aksener, 65, has risen to greater prominence in recent years as a potential challenger to Erdogan. She was expelled from the nationalist MHP party in 2016 after mounting an unsuccessful bid to oust its long-standing leader Devlet Bahceli. In 2017, she formed the moderately nationalist IYI (Good) Party, which formed an alliance with the CHP in 2018 elections and has 36 lawmakers in the 600-seat parliament. She appeals to right-wing and nationalist voters disenchanted with the MHP over its alliance with the AKP. She has pressed for a return to the parliament system which was replaced in 2018 with a presidential one under Erdogan.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu
After five years as CHP mayor of an Istanbul district, former businessman Ekrem Imamoglu, 51, rose to prominence in March 2019 when he defeated the AKP mayoral candidate in municipal elections. His status as a major new player in Turkish politics was reinforced after authorities annulled that vote and he won a re-run election more decisively, dealing a major blow to Erdogan’s dominance. Backed by an opposition alliance, Imamoglu has succeeded in appealing to more conservative voters beyond the party’s secularist grassroots. He has clashed at times with Erdogan over issues such as handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the president’s plans for a huge canal cutting through the west of Istanbul. He is seen as a potential presidential candidate even as he runs Turkey’s largest city in a term scheduled to run until 2024.
Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas
Nationalist politician and lawyer Mansur Yavas, 66, defeated the AKP candidate in 2019 municipal elections in the Turkish capital as the CHP candidate backed by an opposition alliance. Previously he served for 10 years as the nationalist MHP mayor of an Ankara district until 2009. He left the MHP in 2013 and joined the CHP the same year before narrowly losing the Ankara municipal election in 2014. Opinion polls have indicated strong support for Yavas as A potential challenger to Erdogan at the national level after he won praise for his performance as Ankara mayor during the coronavirus pandemic.
Deva Party leader Ali Babacan
Babacan, 54, is an ex-deputy prime minister and formerly close ally of Erdogan who resigned from the AKP in 2019 due to “deep differences” about its direction. He formed the Deva (Remedy) Party and called for reforms to strengthen the rule of law and democracy. He served as economy and foreign minister before holding the post of deputy prime minister from 2009 to 2015. He was well regarded by foreign investors during his time in charge of the economy.
Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoglu
Davutoglu, 62, served as prime minister between 2014 and 2016 but first came to prominence as foreign minister between 2009 and 2014. He broke with Erdogan’s AKP in 2019 and established the Gelecek (Future) Party. In the first decade of AKP rule he championed a less confrontational foreign policy with the mantra “zero problems with neighbors”, but his Middle East strategy was derailed in the turmoil of the Arab uprisings. He has since criticized what he described as a lurch towards authoritarianism under the executive presidency.