Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Dec. 21 that the party’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is the presidential candidate for the upcoming elections that are scheduled to be held in June 2023.
İmamoğlu’s remark came after the latest debate on who will be the presidential candidate of the opposition bloc.
While there are rumors that opposition Good (İYİ) Party leader Meral Akşener favors İmamoğlu instead of Kılıçdaroğlu, some senior CHP figures claimed that Kılıçdaroğlu will be their candidate.
“Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of each member of the CHP family, is the candidate,” İmamoğlu said.
İmamoğlu also said that “Kılıçdaroğlu is the leader of our family. (Erdoğan) has lost the unity and integrity in his own family that he is jealous of us, even in this regard. His jealousy has grown so much that I can say that Mr. President does not see anything.”
On Dec. 20, Kılıçdaroğlu invited İmamoğlu to CHP’s parliamentary group meeting. “We have a father-son relationship with İmamoğlu. He is my son as much as he is the son of the CHP, it is my duty to take care of him,” Kılıçdaroğlu said during the meeting.
In response, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during the AKP's parliamentary group meeting on Dec. 21 that “The person at the head of the CHP says 'we are like father and son' with (İmamoğlu). Mr. Kemal, take care of your son, he is looking for other parents,” referring to the close ties between İmamoğlu and Akşener.
Moreover, İmamoğlu praised renowned Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş.
Demirtaş on Dec. 21 shared a series of messages, saying that the debates on the candidate are nonsense. “To see the critical period we are in as sharing power or seat is to waste a historical opportunity. Now it is necessary to put an end to the vicious discussions and work hard. Now is the time to embrace principles, not exclusion. With this approach, everyone will win, 85 million will win.”
7/7 Şimdi dışlama değil, ilkeler etrafında buluşma ve kucaklaşma zamanıdır.— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) December 21, 2022
Bu yaklaşımla herkes kazanacak, 85 milyon kazanacak.
In response, İmamoğlu said “Hopefully, this process will bring him back to his children and his family. Mr. Demirtaş said very well.”
Some experts say that CHP’s Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş should run for presidency because Kılıçdaroğlu may not attract enough conservative voters from the ruling alliance. They also say Erdoğan's election campaign may prevail against Kılıçdaroğlu because of the former's rhetoric.
A Turkish court on Dec. 14 sentenced Mayor İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to two years and seven months in prison on charges of “insulting” 11 members of Turkey's High Election Board (YSK). The court also imposed a political ban on İmamoğlu, a popular rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which must be confirmed by an appeals court before application.
The court process and the conviction also boosted İmamoğlu’s popularity. He has been mooted as a possible challenger and polls suggest he would defeat Erdoğan.
Lately, Kılıçdaroğlu said that it is the Table of Six that will choose the presidential candidate and that he will accept to run for presidency if six leaders agree upon him. Akşener is also an important part of the Table of Six as her party got the second most votes in the last election after the CHP among six parties, when two of which were not even founded yet.