Türkiye’s six party opposition block held their 11th meeting on January 26, falling short of meeting high expectations with their joint declaration.
The opposition cooperation that is often called the “Table of Six” has been regularly meeting since last February pledging to instate a “strengthened parliamentary regime” against the current “presidential governmental system,” which was taken into effect with a constitutional amendment in 2017.
With the momentum it gained at the beginning of the year 2022, the alliance’s votes raised hopes for a win against Erdoğan, however, over the course of a year, several problems, such as the delay in the selection of a presidential candidate and publicized inner struggles, raised questions about the strength of the alliance.
The January 26 meeting was no different.
In a two-page statement released after a meeting lasting nearly nine hours, the six leaders referred to themselves for the first time as the Nation Alliance.
This means that the three parties DEVA, Future Party (Gelecek Partisi), and Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) have decided to join the election alliance formed in previous elections by the CHP, İYİ, and Democrat Party to gain parliamentary advantage over the AKP-MHP alliance.
Other than this, the problems are there to remain. Let’s list them one by one.
1- The meeting started with a problem
The opposition alliance has not yet determined a presidential candidate to run against Erdoğan. They have been stating that they first focus on their program to follow after the elections and the roadmap for transition to a “strengthened parliamentary regime.”
Despite popular names such as İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s name has been circulating within circles.
The 11th meeting came with rumors of problems within the alliance about Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy, as İYİ Party Deputy Chairman Cihan Paçacı told journalist Nagehan Alçı that his party has reservations. He said that if CHP insisted on his candidacy, the İYİ Party might consider searching for their own candidate instead of the joint one of the alliance.
Following the outburst, Paçacı resigned from his post before the meeting started at 12.00 PM.
It is still under question if the resignation of such an experienced politician as Paçacı would send the necessary message to Kılıçdaroğlu. It will be a topic of discussion for a while.
2- Determination of a joint candidate
Despite this, the Millet Alliance decided to nominate a joint candidate. The declaration mentions that the six parties are working in line with “consultation, consensus, and public preferences”.
How will this public preference be determined? Will the separate surveys of the parties be combined or will joint surveys be conducted? These are not yet clear. The fact that Kılıçdaroğlu, who is openly stated to be the candidate of the CHP, endured this challenge from within can be considered another example of patience.
3- The Roadmap Issue
At the previous meeting, it was said that the roadmap for the transition to a parliamentary system and the text of the joint principles, which would replace the government program if the opposition won the elections, would be finalized and announced on January 30.
We understand that the text of the Common Principles has been finished, but the roadmap has not yet been agreed upon.
It is reported that this issue, including the vice presidents and their functions, will be discussed along with the candidate issue.
For the roadmap and the candidate, the Nation alliance meeting to be hosted by Felicity leader Temel Karamollaoğlu on February 13 is pointed to, although it is not explicitly stated.
4- Erdoğan cannot be a candidate, but…
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the Nation Alliance’s statement is that they have determined that if President Tayyip Erdoğan rules within his presidential capacity to renew the election for May 14, he will not be able to run again. For a detailed analysis of the problem of his candidacy, you can read the YetkinReport article.
The alliance accepted the elections to be held on May 14, rather than its scheduled June date, and challenged Erdoğan, even though they said it was against the Constitution and the law. It is yet another example of political coercion overriding the law in today’s Turkey.
Nevertheless, a complaint will be submitted to the Supreme Election Board (YSK), even if it is not believed to be fruitful.
5- Under the roof of Nation Alliance
The transformation of the Table of Six into the Nation Alliance may have political ramifications, such as changes to parliamentary election lists. For parties with votes far below the 7 percent threshold, the CHP and İYİ have little choice but to include them, including their leaders, on their election lists if they want to enter parliament.
The IYI Party had previously not favored this option. The CHP organization and the parliamentary group were also uncomfortable, despite Kılıçdaroğlu.
As of today, 106 days remain until the elections, which will be held on May 14, and the candidate lists will be finalized on April 10.
In sum, problems may arise on this issue as well.
6- Constitutional amendment for the headscarf
The Nation Alliance of the opposition began to take a common stance on current developments. First of all, they collectively condemned the Quran-burning protests in Sweden and the Netherlands.
Another example is the constitutional amendment on headscarves. The CHP and the IYI Party had submitted a bill that would provide guarantees not only for women who cover their heads but also for women who do not cover their heads. However, this motion was rejected with the votes of the AKP and MHP.
If it had been accepted, it would have received 400 votes in Parliament. In this case, will Erdoğan would be able to put the amendment to a referendum. Can a referendum be organized in the 106 days remaining for the elections?
It does not seem easy, but Erdoğan’s political manoeuvrability should not be underestimated.
As a result, the January 26 meeting, where the Six Tables turned into the Nation Alliance, fell short of his goals and expectations. As for the candidate, time to spin the ball is running out.
In the joint statement, the definitions of “historical responsibility” and “fateful choice” are mentioned, but the landscape has started to make opposition voters question the sincerity of the leaders in these concepts.