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Our questions, our answers | Too nice to confront Erdoğan?



It has been confirmed since Monday: Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will be the candidate of the “table of six” in the next Turkish elections. But does he have what it takes to win?

Pardon ? A table of six? In which restaurant?

It is an expression, see! Not everything should be taken at face value! The table of six is ​​the name given to the coalition of six parties which dreams of overthrowing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the next presidential election in Turkey on 14th May next.


Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey

Is it an important vote?

A bit much, yes. Erdoğan has been in power for 20 years. His record is far from unanimous. And the criticisms against him are only increasing. Financial crisis, suspicions of corruption, poor management of the earthquake which killed more than 50,000 people in February. Not to mention his increasingly authoritarian regime. Turkey seems ready to turn the page. Except that…

Except what?

Well… One wonders if the coalition has chosen the right horse to face it…

Ah good ? Who is it ?

His name is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (pronounced Kelitchdarrolou), and at 74, we’re not exactly talking about new blood. This nice gentleman, who has led the historic CHP (Republican People’s Party, founded by Mustafa Kemal, alias Atatürk, father of modern Turkey) since 2010, is described as dull, devoid of charisma, too nice. In short, the complete opposite of the impetuous Erdoğan, a stupid politician if ever there was one. “In the Turkish context, he doesn’t really have the image of a strong man. He does politics as if we were in Sweden when we are in Turkey, ”summarizes Vahid Yücesoy, researcher from the University of Montreal.

But then… why choose him to confront Erdoğan? That’s shooting yourself in the foot, right?

This is what Meral Akşener, president of the Good Party (nationalist right), the second formation of the coalition, thinks. Last week, Akşener even left the table of six to show his disagreement. She would have preferred the mayor of Istanbul (Ekrem İmamoğlu) or the mayor of Ankara (Mansur Yavaş), two younger and more charismatic politicians. She ended up falling into line, in front of the evidence…

What evidence?

That Kemal also has strengths. He is a moderate, a unifier, capable of rallying a wide spectrum of voters. In this sense, he is perhaps the only one who can unseat Erdoğan. His supporters call him “the Turkish Gandhi”, because of his physical resemblance to the Mahatmah, as well as for his great thirst for justice and fairness. Since the failed coup attempt of 2016, he has not hesitated to denounce the regime’s repressions, going so far as to walk the 450 km that separate Ankara from Istanbul in order to publish his noble causes.


Supporters of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu cheer on the candidate during a speech in Ankara on March 7.

“He is fair and reliable. Not tainted by corruption. These are qualities that Turks are desperately looking for, “said Ceren Belge, an expert on Turkish politics at Concordia University.

It is thanks to him, she says, that this coalition exists. Nothing less than a miracle, considering the great disparity of the parties involved (center right, center left, nationalist right and three Islamist parties).

[Kılıçdaroğlu] is the architect of the unification of the opposition, which is not easy to do in a country like Turkey. It is an alliance that he has been building gradually over several years and which has allowed him to earn respect.

Ceren Belge, expert on Turkish politics from Concordia University

“At the end of the day, he is a mediator,” sums up Vahid Yücesoy.

His policy of compromise has also enabled him to gain the confidence of the Kurds, who represent approximately 15% of the electorate in Turkey. It is not negligible. The pro-Kurdish party HDP (People’s Democratic Party) is not officially part of the coalition (incompatible with Meral Akşener’s Good Party), but it could support it by not presenting a candidate against Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu.

So he has a chance of winning?

Finally, yes. Unless Erdoğan changes the rules of the game or challenges the results, as he tried to do after the last municipal elections in Istanbul in 2019. The bigger the vote gap, the less easy it will be for him to deny the verdict of the polls. For the moment, the coalition has the wind in its sails. According to an ORC Arastirima poll dated March 7, Kılıçdaroğlu is well ahead of Erdoğan, with 56.8% of the vote against 43.2%.

Coalitions are inherently fragile. Can the table of six hold after a possible victory?

They have common goals. Restoration of the parliamentary system, multiple reforms, release of political prisoners, management of the aftermath of the earthquake and the 4 million Syrian refugees camped in Turkey. “It’s enough to last a year or two,” concludes Belgian. The question is rather to know if it will be able to hold until the election! »

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  • March 14, 2003
    Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comes to power

    84.78 million
    Population of Turkey in 2021

    Source: Data Commons

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