President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Saturday said that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will continue on their planned course and dismissed the opposition split, in his first comment regarding the fracturing of the opposition alliance.
“We decided not to speak on the issue until a second development. As the AK Party, we will conduct the necessary evaluations during our MYK (Central Administration Board) and MKYK (Central Executive Committee and Central Decision Board) meetings and then decide,” Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul.
He added he predicted that the six-party opposition coalition would fall apart.
The public split on Friday in the alliance of opposition parties followed months of simmering discord in the group and was seen by analysts as a blow to opposition hopes of unseating Erdoğan – who has been in power for two decades.
Meral Akşener, leader of the center-right nationalist Good Party (IP), the second-biggest in the alliance, announced Friday the party was leaving the bloc.
She said that at a presidential candidate selection meeting this week, five parties in the alliance proposed Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as their candidate.
“Personal ambition was preferred to Türkiye,” Akşener said. This was not what the Good Party was founded for, she added.
The 74-year-old former civil servant’s failure to light up opinion polls had been causing divisions within the six opposition parties for some time.
Akşener accused members of the alliance of pressuring her party and defying the people’s will, adding that she proposed Mansur Yavaş and Ekrem Imamoğlu, CHP mayors of the capital Ankara and Istanbul, respectively, as candidates.
Yavaş had recently indicated that he would accept the duty of a presidential candidate if the opposition coalition would ask him to, while Imamoğlu’s candidacy was seen as risky because of an ongoing judicial process.
He was sentenced in December to over two years imprisonment and a ban from political office for insulting election officials following his win four years ago.
Akşener’s announcement, just 10 weeks before the planned May 14 election, was not anticipated as the parties had been negotiating with each other for a year.
After Akşener’s announcement, Yavaş and Imamoğlu posed in a photo with Kılıçdaroğlu and stated that they would adhere to CHP decisions.
Kılıçdaroğlu seemed unruffled by Akşener’s speech as he left a meeting in Ankara. “Don’t worry, all the pieces will fall into place,” he told journalists.
Kılıçdaroğlu has said there is no room for political games in the alliance and signaled that more parties could join the bloc.
Before the splinter, the CHP, Felicity Party (SP), IP, Future Party (GP), Democrat Party (DP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) formed the opposition.
Opposition leaders said they will announce their joint candidate to challenge Erdoğan on March 6. IP officials said that Akşener would not attend Monday’s meeting.
A staunch nationalist and a skillful orator, Akşener, a former interior minister, is one of the few prominent women in domestic politics.
Separately, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a key actor in the bid to defeat Erdoğan on May 14, called on the opposition to unite around democracy, justice and freedom.
The third-biggest party with 12% support nationally, the HDP is not part of the alliance. But in 2019 its supporters helped the alliance win mayoral elections in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.
HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar said after an extraordinary meeting of the HDP senior ranks that the party is still reconsidering a previous decision to field a presidential candidate.
The five-party opposition coalition met on Saturday at the headquarters of the SP, after which Kılıçdaroğlu announced: “We continue our path with the same faith and determination.”
Türkiye heads to a critical election on May 14 three months after a devastating earthquake hit several provinces and claimed over 45,000 lives.