Will the opposition succeed in turning the tide in Turkey? - analysis


Through its presidential candidate, Muharrem İnce, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is hoping to turn the page on past mistakes while fanning hopes that it has a real shot at defeating President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections, said Gönül Tol, director of the Turkey programme at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Tol pointed to the CHP’s track record of being seen as an ineffective opposition, even an unwitting aid to Erdoğan during his 16 years in power.

The Turkish president is looking to retain his seat in the polls next month, which will usher in a new executive presidential system narrowly approved in a referendum last year.

The CHP was accused of not doing enough to challenge the outcome of last year’s referendum, Tol said, which was tainted by widespread allegations of fraud. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu even supported a government bill to lift the parliamentary immunity that enabled the courts to imprison members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including its current presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş.

In the weeks leading into the snap elections İnce is emerging as one of the most spirited speakers within the opposition, the author said. “He has Erdoğan’s fiery oratorical skills and street-fighter instincts. Critical of many of his party’s policies, including the decision to lift parliamentary immunities, he ran against Kılıçdaroğlu for the party leadership in 2014 and 2018. Many think he can appeal beyond his party’s secularist base to Kurds and conservatives,” she said.

İnce comes from a humble background and was born into a pious family, like Erdoğan, which is sure to work to his advantage.

The CHP has come a long way from an ineffective opposition to a proactive party that sets the tone of the debate, Tol said, recalling how 15 CHP lawmakers quit their party last month and joined the nationalist Good Party in order to helping it reach the legal benchmark of 20 parliamentarians it needed to take part in the polls.

“In a country that has been ruled by one man for 16 years, who did everything he could to stay in power, including imprisoning his opponents and passing legislation paving the way to voter fraud, getting the electorate stirred up is no easy task. But bigger challenges are still ahead. An opposition victory might turn into a double-edged sword,” Tol said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish lira took a sharp dip against the U.S. dollar last week as inflation continues to run high. With strong signs of a financial crisis ahead, a win for İnce would prove to be very challenging.