The illustration shows the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chair Özgür Özel (L), the Good Party (IP) Chair Meral Akşener (C) and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu. (Illustration by Erhan Yalvaç)

Is it possible for CHP to persuade Good Party for realliance?

The Good Party (IP) is trying to deal with resignations, an inquiry into the financial affairs of its chairperson’s family members, and allegations of missing funds and harassment.

The Good Party (IP) is trying to deal with resignations, an inquiry into the financial affairs of its chairperson’s family members, and allegations of missing funds and harassment.

IP Chairperson Meral Akşener reflected on the opposition’s election defeat more seriously than the remaining opposition leaders. Criticizing the former Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for making himself the opposition’s joint presidential candidate despite the likelihood of his defeat, Akşener rejected alliance politics to announce that the IP was going to contest next year’s municipal elections by itself. That decision resulted in internal turmoil and mounting pressure on Akşener.

Standing atop political fault lines, the IP aimed to become Türkiye’s largest right-wing movement – an uphill battle, as we observed over the last six or seven years. The bottom line is that the party failed to unite secular nationalists and conservatives at the political center. To make matters worse, its alliance with CHP, which aligned itself more and more closely with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its successor, has taken a toll on the IP since 2019. Having failed to win any mayoral races in the previous municipal election, the movement faced immense pressure and attacks from CHP’s close associates ahead and in the wake of the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.

New challenges for IP

Currently looking for an alternative to alliance politics, the IP and its chairperson face a new challenge. Two simultaneous efforts by the CHP threaten to make Meral Akşener’s life more difficult. First, CHP Chairperson Özgür Özel and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu are trying to sell her on a bilateral partnership in certain provinces as opposed to an electoral alliance. Seeking to unite the opposition following their latest election defeat, the CHP’s pro-change wing hopes to work together with the Good Party in Istanbul and Ankara at a minimum. For that purpose, they are telling Akşener that she was right about Kılıçdaroğlu, whom the CHP replaced, and asking her to cooperate with the new CHP chairperson to support Istanbul Mayor Imamoğlu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş – whom she had endorsed as presidential candidates earlier this year. They also warn the IP that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands to benefit from a fragmented opposition.

Carefully hidden behind the CHP leadership’s effort to persuade Akşener is the stern warning that she would take the fall for Erdoğan’s potential victory, irreparably hurting her own party. That, in turn, points to a second issue that puts Akşener and her movement in a difficult position (and could still become worse): a new social pressure campaign.

The common purpose of both steps is to win over the IP base through persuasion or intimidation. In other words, the CHP leadership wants Akşener’s supporters to vote for CHP candidates in Istanbul and Ankara even if Akşener chooses to go it alone.

The main opposition party kicked off that campaign with courtesy visits and phone calls. The next step will presumably be an official meeting between the CHP and IP leaders. Ironically, the campaign targeting the IP would automatically succeed if Akşener were to hold talks with Özgür Özel, Ekrem Imamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş regarding a potential collaboration. Such a meeting would practically void the IP’s potential decision to contest the election by itself because entering into negotiations alone would give Imamoğlu and Yavaş the political capital they need on the campaign trail – before the CHP starts chasing an open alliance with the Green Left Party (YSP).

Let us recall that Özel and Imamoğlu toppled Kılıçdaroğlu whom they called “father.” As they describe their relationship with Akşener as “sister and little brother,” the IP leader could end up in an unpleasant situation. This new adventure might not cost Akşener her seat, but it is highly likely for her to lose some voters.

[Daily Sabah, November 29, 2023]

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