Daily Hürriyet newspaper’s senior politics op-ed writer Abdulkadir Selvi broke backstage news yesterday. He said that the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu met his party’s Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. The breaking news was that the leader of the main opposition met his party’s mayor, pointing to a question whether there will be rivalry between Kılıçdaroğlu and Imamoğlu over presidential candidacy.
The question of a rivalry came after İYİ Party Deputy Leader Koray Aydın said on December 7 that they “would not support a candidate that has no chance to win” in the presidential election, implying that they consider Kılıçdaroğlu a weak candidate against President Tayyip Erdoğan in the presidential race. İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener already declared that she wants to be a “prime minister”, a statement that indicates the opposition’s will to reinstate the previous executive regime and her unwillingness to run for the presidency. Will there be a rivalry between İmamoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu, especially after the İYİ Party’s statements? If it does, will this do any harm to the Nation Alliance between the CHP and İYİ Party?
Pro-Government Research Foundation SETA’s general coordinator and one of the advisors of President Erdoğan, Burhanettin Duran, also devoted his column in the Sabah newspaper to this subject.
“Of course, Akşener did not completely reset the possibility of candidacy. Akşener still has the real power to determine who cannot be the candidate,” he wrote adding that Felicity Party (SP) leader Temel Karamolaoğlu is also against Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy.
Rest assured, the CHP members I talked to, and even the IYI Party members, are not as interested in the CHP’s candidate as the AKP members. For the majority of CHP and IYI Party members, whether the candidate will be Kılıçdaroğlu, İmamoğlu, Mansur Yavaş or even Meral Akşener comes second; the most important thing for them is Erdogan’s departure.
What is the reason behind this attention?
So why is the AKP more interested in the CHP’s candidate than the CHP members?
First answer: What else they should be interested in rather than the CHP candidate.
Should they be interested in the news that the Central Bank lost some 30 billion Turkish Liras in 2021? Or should they be interested in that the Central Bank, which set its year-end inflation target as 12.2 percent at the beginning of 2021, almost doubled its year-end forecast and increased its end-of-the-road inflation forecast to 23.8?
Are we expecting them to write that Erdoğan lashed out at the AKP group for not reacting enough to Kılıçdaroğlu’s hand gesture that he made during the budget talks which he apologized for?
Or should they pay attention to the imprisoned former co-chairman of the Kurdish issue-oriented People’s Democracy Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş’s call to Erdogan in which he said to “release me for two hours, let’s hold a rally, the one who gathers fewer people should leave politics?” Or should they write about the fact that aerial imaging calculations estimated that at least 44 thousand people attended Kılıçdaroğlu’s Mersin rally and 6,500 people attended Erdoğan’s Siirt rally? Yet, President said, “The information the police gave me indicates that my rally was more crowded.” What would the police say to Erdoğan?
Paying attention to the CHP candidate or else?
Should they not be interested in the CHP candidate and get interested in, for example, the high cost of living and get themselves into trouble? Should they write about the minimum wage that is not enough?
In the daily Sözcü newspaper Deniz Zeyrek wrote about his conversation with an AKP politician. The politician visited a shopkeeper in his constituency who had just given his opinion for a questionnaire. He asked, who did you say that you will vote in the next election? The shopkeeper said, “I said AKP”. The politician asked, will you vote for the AKP? He said, “no, I will not. If I said the opposite, the police would raid my shop in the evening.”
AKP deputies, provincial and district presidents are thinking about how they will face the voters during the election campaign.
Of course, there is another reason why they are interested in the Nation Alliance candidate all the time.
They cannot establish a game plan until the candidate of the CHP, or more precisely, the Nation Alliance, is determined.
They cannot develop a strategy unless Erdogan’s opponent is clear. Because if Kılıçdaroğlu would be a candidate, they will set up another game plan, maybe by taking all the risk and building their strategy on sectarianism. If Imamoğlu would be the candidate, they would set up another game; if he is Akşener or Yavaş, another.
They can’t make a game plan without an opponent
The candidate of the Nation Alliance will also determine the activities of the AKP’s People’s Alliance partner MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s team, which he said he sent to “every corner of Anatolia.”
Both the CHP and the IYI Party are expected to be prepared for this. Remember that İmamoğlu’s candidacy was announced a few months before the election. Until then, the names of five or six candidates were circulating backstage.
When İmamoğlu’s name came to light, Erdoğan declared Binali Yıldırım as a candidate for Istanbul Mayoralty. This counterattack failed with the alliance policy developed by Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener, and İmamoğlu took Istanbul. Likewise, the former Mayor of Kayseri and one of the ministers, Mehmet Özhaseki, was introduced against Mansur Yavaş in Ankara, instead of Veysel Tiryaki, the mayor of Altındağ from the AKP, who was perhaps the only person who would have a chance, and that game plan had also failed.
One of the reasons for this close interest with the Nation Alliance candidate is to start the policy of attrition campaign as soon as possible. There are signs that CHP and İYİ Party will fall into this trap. The panic of the two mayors and teams around the two leaders, probably due to the people’s interests in these groups, is one of the most critical assurances of the AKP side.