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Kılıçdaroğlu appointed as leader of Nation Alliance, challenging Erdogan on May 14 election

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), will be the candidate of a six-party coalition that will oppose the current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presidential elections that are expected to be held on May 14 this year.

The Republican People's Party is a center-left and secular party, founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Türkiye and founding father of the country. The Republican People's Party is currently the second largest party in the country and holds 135 seats in the 600-seat local parliament, the Grand National Assembly (TBMM, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi).

Presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (AP Photo)

The announcement was made on Monday after intense negotiations that lasted several months. The Nation Alliance (the name of the coalition that Kılıçdaroğlu will lead) risked falling apart in the last days, after Meral Akşener, leader of the right-wing and nationalist party IYI (The Good Party) decided to abandon the coalition as a result of the choice of Kılıçdaroğlu as a candidate for the presidency. The coalition then reassembled after Kılıçdaroğlu agreed to nominate Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas, popular mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, as vice-presidential candidates.

Imamoglu was seen as the main candidate and a coalition leader but was recently sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for insulting public officials in a speech he gave in 2019 after winning the municipal elections. According to several analysts and local journalists, the sentence was politically motivated.

However, during the speech in which he announced his candidacy, Kılıçdaroğlu said that the vice presidents will be the 5 leaders of the other parties of the coalition. The two mayors, Imamoglu and Yavas, will eventually be appointed as vice presidents with duties assigned directly by Kılıçdaroğlu.

The coalition that will challenge incumbent President Erdoğan consists of six parties spanning the entire political spectrum, from left to right. The parties are the Republican People's Party, the Good Party, the Democrat Party (DP, Demokrat Parti), the Felicity Party (SP, Saadet Partisi), the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA, Demokrasi ve Atılım Partisi) and the Future Party (GP, Gelecek Partisi).

 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (AFP/LaPresse)

According to poll aggregator Europe Elects, the outcome of the May 14 presidential elections is not a given. The Nation Alliance currently has a slight lead over President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi). Support for Erdogan has been waning for some time, particularly due to his handling of the earthquake that hit Türkiye on February 6 and which killed at least 46,000 people in the country.

Türkiye is also experiencing an economic crisis with few precedents. Inflation was 55.18% in February, albeit down from the peak of 85.51% recorded in October, the highest figure in 24 years. The increase in inflation in Türkiye is mainly caused by Erdogan’s monetary policies, according to analysts. Erdogan decided to forcefully keep interest rates low in an attempt to accelerate economic growth.

 Annual inflation in Turkey (Reuters graph)

Despite the high figures of inflation, the Turkish economy has so far proved resilient. According to The Economist, however, behind an experiment that could appear rational, there are three extremely relevant factors: “a shortening of horizons; pressures on day-to-day decision-making; and an arbitrary redistribution of wealth, which heaps the burden of inflation on those least able to bear it.”

In the 12-point coalition agreement, the Nation Alliance promised to keep inflation under control, bringing it below 10% within two years; to stabilize the local currency, the Turkish Lira, which lost 80% of its value in 5 years; and to restore the independence of the Central Bank (Erdogan sacked 3 central bankers between 2019 and 2021).

The most important point of the coalition agreement concerns the promise to return to a parliamentary system “as quickly as possible,” after the presidential turnaround occurred in 2018. Moreover, the Nation Alliance has promised to restore the role of the Prime Minister, abolished via a referendum in 2017.

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