Erdoğan to pay return visit to CHP, says Turkey needs political softening

President and ruling AKP's leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after his first one-on-one meeting with the main opposition leader in eight years, stated he would visit the CHP at the earliest opportunity, saying, "Turkey needs this."

Duvar English

Turkish President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 3 stated that he was content with the visit of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel and said that he would pay a return visit as soon as possible.

In his remarks after the Friday prayers, Erdoğan referred to his meeting with a main opposition leader after eight years and said that it was a positive development between the government and the main opposition that Özel made such a visit after he became the CHP’s chair.

Pointing out that such steps were not taken previously, Erdoğan noted that with the taking of this step, politics had entered a much “softer period” in Turkey.

He said, "I also told Mr. Özel that I would pay a return visit at the first opportunity. Turkey needs this. Turkish politics needs this. I want to start the process of softening politics in Turkey by realizing this visit at the first opportunity. We will take this step."

Özel and Erdoğan meeting was the first between the Turkish president and a CHP leader since 2016, when he hosted then-chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu at the presidential palace after an attempted military coup on July 15 of that year.

After 13 years with Kılıçdaroğlu at the CHP helm, Özel became party leader last November amid a push for change in the secularist party, which had been dogged by in-fighting.

AKP parliamentary group deputy chair Leyla Şahin Usta said last week that it was "abnormal" for CHP and President Erdoğan to have no interaction for such a long time, suggesting that former CHP chair Kılıçdaroğlu was responsible for the strained relationship.

Kılıçdaroğlu himself also criticized Özel for this visit and said, “You don't negotiate with the palace, you fight against it.”

Özel and Kılıçdaroğlu on May 3 privately met to talk about Özel's meeting with Erdoğan.

Analysts viewed the local elections as having dented Erdoğan's hopes of pushing through a new constitution, which could potentially extend his rule beyond 2028 when his term ends.

Parliament Speaker Numan Kurtulmuş of the AKP is leading talks on an issue that looks likely to dominate domestic politics this year. While the AKP and its allies have a parliamentary majority, Erdoğan would need broader support for a successful referendum on a new constitution.