Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on Dec. 19 that “One party should not interfere in the internal affairs of another party,” referring to the opposition right-wing Good (İYİ) Party.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks came after the rumors that İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener favors CHP’s Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu who was sentenced to prison.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already announced his candidacy for the presidency. While some senior CHP figures claimed that Kılıçdaroğlu will be their candidate, there is no official announcement yet.
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.
Earlier, Akşener told broadcaster Habertürk on Dec. 2 that she would not say no to the candidacy of İmamoğlu or Yavaş.
Moreover, İYİ Party lawmaker and its former deputy chair Yavuz Ağıralioğlu said on Nov. 13 that they have some concerns about Kılıçdaroğlu's candidacy as he may not attract conservative voters.
Then, 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.
After the conviction, İmamoğlu called all his supporters to Saraçhane district in Istanbul at 4 p.m. in local time, where the municipality’s building is located.
Akşener was the first political leader to accept İmamoğlu’s call, coming from the capital Ankara. Kılıçdaroğlu at the time was in Germany for a visit, and was able to come back to Saraçhane during the night after cutting short his visit.
Kılıçdaroğlu's visit to Germany on the same day with the final hearing of İmamoğlu's case was widely criticized.
A photo of Akşener and İmamoğlu hugging each other were shared.
Akşener also shared a photo of her and İmamoğlu at 6:37 p.m. after they met.
The next day, Table of Six leaders held a rally to support İmamoğlu, again in Saraçhane district. Akşener was the only leader to keep İmamoğlu next to her at the stage during the time she was speaking.
“Table of Six” is the name of alliance of the six opposition parties that are united to change Turkey’s presidential regime, consisting the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), centre-right İYİ (Good) Party, Islamist Felicity (Saadet) Party, Democrat Party (DP), DEVA (Democracy and Progress) Party and Future (Gelecek) Party.
Akşener said during the rally that “We see in Saraçhane that 85 million are with İmamoğlu alongside 16 million (of Istanbulites),” which was regarded as her preference for the joint presidential candidacy of İmamoğlu for the opposition bloc instead of Kılıçdaroğlu. Akşener once again shared a photo of her and İmamoğlu on her Twitter account.
Over these developments, people who favor İmamoğlu and people who favor Kılıçdaroğlu for the candidacy severely argued with each other on social media. These arguments were interpreted as the opposition bloc’s inability to unite despite “unfair” conviction of İmamoğlu.
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.
Kılıçdaroğlu did not confirm that he will be the candidate, saying six leaders united to change the presidential system and it is more important to discuss the new system they will bring to the country if they assume power, rather than arguing on who will be the candidate.
“Our mayors (İmamoğlu and Yavaş) continue to be on their duties,” Kılıçdaroğlu told TVs Ankara representatives on Dec. 19.
“One party should not interfere in the internal affairs of another party,” he added, slamming Akşener’s moves and remarks.
In response, İYİ Party seniors reportedly said that they chose İmamoğlu and Yavaş as the joint mayoral candidate together with the CHP back in 2019, and the recent debates are nothing different. They reportedly added that they do not hold any grudge against individuals, and they just want to propose the candidate who will win the elections that are scheduled to be held in June 2023.
On Dec. 20, Kılıçdaroğlu invited İmamoğlu to CHP’s parliamentary group meeting, but did not share a photo of him and İmamoğlu together. Instead, İmamoğlu shared the photo where they hug and said "Today I am in Ankara for the CHP Group Meeting. I visited our Chair, Mr. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Thank you for protecting the will of 16 million Istanbulites during this process."
Bugün CHP Grup Toplantısı için Ankara'dayım. Genel Başkanımız Sayın Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu'nu ziyaret ettim. Bu süreçte, 16 milyon İstanbullunun iradesine sahip çıktığı için teşekkürler. pic.twitter.com/lh3wYopxSH— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) December 20, 2022
Moreover, Kılıçdaroğlu did not give any time to İmamoğlu to speak from the stage during the 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.
During this time period, Kılıçdaroğlu shared support messages for İmamoğlu on Twitter as well as his speech during the rally in support of İmamoğlu, but did not share any photo of İmamoğlu, together or alone. Whereas, İmamoğlu is very much visible in the latest media shares of Akşener.