Whip Ozgur Ozel to challenge Kilicdaroglu in CHP leadership race

A pharmacist turned lawmaker became the first official challenger to the longstanding head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Özgür Özel, who currently serves as CHP parliamentary group chair, announced his candidacy to succeed Kılıçdaroğlu on Friday.


At a news conference in the CHP headquarters, the 48-year-old politician vowed a renewal of the party, which suffered yet another loss in May’s presidential and legislative polls. He often made references to the early years of CHP and legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the party and Republic of Türkiye. Kılıçdaroğlu was accused by his critics of steering away CHP from its conventional principles by reaching out to names which have been hostile to the CHP in the party.

Waving a booklet with the title “Century of Change, Change of the Century,” Özel appeared borrowing from playbook of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu’s quasi-campaign against Kılıçdaroğlu. Imamoğlu has stopped short of challenging Kılıçdaroğlu while Özel has earlier signaled that he was “ready to do anything” for boosting support for the party.


Özel said current administration of CHP failed to grasp the causes of the defeat in the May elections and instead, “found excuses.” “They shied away from taking political responsibility for the defeat,” he said. He also criticized his party for allowing 36 candidates from other parties the CHP aligned with, to run for CHP seats in the legislative elections. He claimed that the administration bypassed lower boards of the party while giving away seats for those who are eligible to represent their own parties now.


Later on Friday, Örsan Öymen, nephew of former CHP Chair Altan Öymen, is scheduled to announce his candidacy. The CHP is scheduled to hold an election to elect a new chair later this year, while Kılıçdaroğlu said he would only run again if his party nominated him.




What does  Ozel promise?

During his address to the media at CHP headquarters, Özel emphasized the necessity for substantial change in the party, going beyond merely a shift in leadership. He conveyed stories symbolizing deep social wounds and unfulfilled promises, invoking the struggles of diverse individuals across Turkey’s 81 provinces.


He stressed the need for a holistic change, emanating not from an individual but a unified, resolute team committed to transformation.


Özel emphasized the urgency of revisiting the party’s approach to alliances, advocating for a collaborative framework that resonates with the party’s core values.

The 48-year-old parliamentary deputy said they will move forward with new approaches for a new politics in the new century of the Republic of Turkey. “We take an uncompromising position on the side of the working class, (we are with them while they experience) pressure for producing more that increases workplace murders, and strike bans. We reject the polarizing approach to politics. We do not accept ethnic and sectarian polarization. We embrace all differences”, he proclaimed, according to Duvar English.

43 CHP deputies attended Özel’s conference, with 65 reported to have thrown their support behind him.  It is unclear whether Ozel has the support of enough delegates to the party’s Grand Convention to be held  in November or December. Some  sources claim Kilicdaroglu rigged provincial straw polls to assure his re-elections while other maintain that “the change” movement, unofficially  supporting him and Ekrem Imamoglu gained the upper hand in large cities.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.