Turkish CHP selects outspoken Ince as election candidate

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) selected Muharrem Ince as its candidate to run against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in presidential elections, Haberturk news channel reported.

The outspoken Ince, 53, a former deputy leader of the party's parliamentary group from the northerwestern region of Yalova, will run in the nationwide poll on June 24, Haberturk said citing Ilhan Kesici, a CHP parliamentarian for Istanbul who was rumoured to be the CHP’s candidate.

Erdoğan called snap general elections, bringing them forward from November next year, three weeks ago, citing economic factors and the war in neighbouring Syria. He also faces challenges from Meral Akşener, the female leader of the Good Party (IP), and Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned head of the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP).

Ince, an ex-headmaster elected as a parliamentarian on four straight occassions since 2002, is well known for his heated speeches against Erdoğan, which have become popular on the internet. His paternal grandparents are from Thessaloniki in Greece. He is a former president of the Ataturkist Thought Association.

Recent opinion polls show the two-round election may be close-run, with Akşener polling strongly. Erdoğan, who has led Turkey since 2003, holds an advantage because about 90 percent of Turkey’s media is under the control of his business allies and recent changes to election laws allow the counting of unstamped ballot papers and policing of polling stations by government officials.