May 01 2018

Four opposition parties agree electoral alliance – Turkish journalist

Four of Turkey’s opposition parties have agreed terms for an electoral alliance in the upcoming June 24 presidential elections, İsmail Saymaz, a well-known journalist for the Hürriyet newspaper, said on a news discussion show on the nationwide channel KRT.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), newly established centre right Good (İYİ) Party, conservative Islamist Felicity Party (SP) and Democratic Party (DP) agreed on the alliance on Sunday evening, and continued discussions on possible candidates on Monday, said Saymaz.

“The coalition will likely be called either ‘the National Union for Democracy’ or the ‘Democracy Coalition,” said the journalist.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to bring elections forward from November 2019 to Jun. 24, 2018, sent opposition parties rushing to find partners to counter the already agreed coalition between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the fourth largest party in the last general elections held in November 2015.

Speculation that AKP co-founder and former president Abdullah Gül could serve as a unity candidate was quashed last Saturday when Gül ruled himself out of the race.

The coalition discussed by Saymaz includes three well established parties, with the CHP drawing a significant portion of votes – but never higher than 26 percent - to become the main opposition party in each election since the AKP gained power in 2002.

The SP and DP are both parties with long histories and significant memberships in the hundreds of thousands, though neither party has broken the 10 percent electoral threshold required to gain parliamentary representation since the AKP period began.

The İYİ Party, meanwhile, was founded last year by leader Meral Akşener, a charismatic former minster and MHP politician who has been touted as a possible contender with the attributes to win over both AKP and MHP voters.

One significant omission from the coalition is the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish party that became the third party in parliament in the last elections, but has been beleaguered by legal challenges since then due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that resumed decades of conflict with Turkish armed forces in 2015 when a peace process broke down.

Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has put himself forward as a presidential candidate, and will have to run his campaign from a prison cell, having been detained pending trial on terrorism charges since his arrest in November 2016.