Turkish opposition confused, busy with presidential candidate consultations

In an effort to take society’s pulse about what most people are looking for in a presidential candidate, opposition parties have been busy paying visits to nongovernmental organizations and experienced politicians.

While the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) started its tour of visits with the Turkish Tradesmen’s and Artisans’ Confederation (TESK) on Wednesday, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli surprisingly met with President Abdullah Gül, one of the potential presidential candidates for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
At a press conference at the TESK headquarters in Ankara, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and TESK Chairman Bendevi Palandöken emphasized that a presidential candidate should not have a dismissive attitude toward any group in society. Noting that a presidential candidate should have an all-embracing attitude, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “I hope we will nominate a presidential candidate who… believes in the rule of law… [and] embraces society with intelligence rather than anger.” 
The CHP leader’s remarks clearly referred to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been heavily criticized since last summer’s Gezi Park protests for his dismissive, insulting discourse towards those who do not support him.
The CHP and MHP, the two largest opposition parties in Parliament, have been considering — and have possibly already begun holding unofficial talks — nominating a joint candidate in the presidential elections to boost their chances against the ruling AK Party, which is almost certainly going to have Erdoğan as its candidate. The opposition parties argue that he lacks the necessary qualities to serve as president.
During the press conference, Kılıçdaroğlu emphasized that the CHP would chart a roadmap about whom to nominate as presidential candidate after completing its consultation meetings.
Bahçeli met with Gül at the presidential palace on Wednesday to exchange views about potential presidential candidates. The meeting seemed a bit odd, as there is a slight chance that Gül might run as the ruling party’s candidate for president.

No statement was made following the 30-minute-long meeting, in which Bahçeli was accompanied by MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın and İsmet Büyükataman, secretary-general of the party. Previously, Bahçeli also met with former presidents Süleyman Demirel and Necdet Sezer to exchange views about potential joint candidates for the opposition parties.
Though not yet in full force, the two opposition parties’ quest for a joint candidate has drawn criticism from the ranks of the ruling party, which stands a higher chance for a victory in the race if the opposition cannot manage to join forces. AK Party Deputy Chairman Salih Kapusuz tried to degrade the opposition’s efforts via his Twitter account on Wednesday, maintaining that the opposition was seeking a joint candidate who resembles Demirel and Sezer, whom he said were not respectful political figures because of their participation in past efforts to harm democracy.

The CHP’s Central Executive Board (MYK) also convened on Wednesday, during which the party’s policy regarding the Aug. 10 presidential elections was most possibly discussed.

 At a CHP parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday, most of the CHP deputies argued that the CHP should nominate its own presidential candidate instead of joining forces for a common candidate with the MHP, according to the Ankara News Agency (ANKA).
Reportedly, CHP deputies were told in the meeting, which was closed to the press, to suggest 3-4 names for potential presidential candidates.

According to the report, Kılıçdaroğlu himself opened the envelopes containing the deputies’ proposals, which included the following names: Kılıçdaroğlu; CHP deputy and former Chairman Deniz Baykal; CHP Eskişehir Mayor Yılmaz Büyükerşen; former CHP deputy and center-right political figure İlhan Kesici; and Adnan Menderes, the grandson of the former center-right Democratic Party (DP) leader with the same name who was hanged following a coup in 1960.
For the first time in Turkey, the president will be elected by popular vote; the CHP and the MHP are considering joining forces in an effort to stop Erdoğan from becoming president.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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