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Table for six built on the fault lines

Table for six built on the fault lines

The ongoing turmoil within the opposition bloc on picking a presidential candidate suggests that a possible victory by their candidate could trigger widespread political unrest in Türkiye

The table for six experienced new political and ideological tremors as Meral Akşener, the Good Party’s (IP) chairperson, publicly disagreed with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) over the endorsement of a joint presidential candidate. Akşener’s remarks came 20 days after the twin earthquakes in Türkiye and amounted to a major aftershock. Specifically, the IP chair pushed back against pro-CHP figures accusing her of “opportunism” for joining Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem Imamoğlu, at a public event. It is possible that she responded to a compromising dossier, which CHP Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu may have received from someone, by reviving an old controversy. Calling the CHP chairperson’s inner circle “idiots,” Akşener targeted Bülent Kuşoğlu, one of Kılıçdaroğlu’s deputies, for saying that “the table for six was formed to endorse Kılıçdaroğlu” and would disintegrate unless that decision was made. Recalling that the CHP leadership did not issue a correction, she complained that Kuşoğlu had not been dismissed either. Akşener also said that the opposition leaders would not rubberstamp anyone, stressing that it was necessary to pick an “electable” candidate to score a first-round victory.

Akşener's intention

There is no reason to expect the aftershock will destroy the opposition bloc. Akşener certainly could break up the table for six, but she does not intend to. Perhaps she just wants the CHP leadership to sacrifice one of their own people. Since the election will probably take place in May, the Good Party chairperson makes her final move. The table for six will discuss how they will select their candidate after a delay due to the earthquakes. Obviously, that delay strengthened Kılıçdaroğlu’s hand as he had been imposing his candidacy on the opposition bloc for a long time. That’s why Akşener brings up the candidacy and tries to strengthen her own hand at the 11th hour. Seeing that time is running out, she makes last-ditch attempts to negotiate terms. It is possible to view Akşener’s aggressive comments as firing the first salvo to get the opposition bloc to endorse a CHP member who is not Kılıçdaroğlu. It is virtually impossible that the IP chair does not appreciate the weakness of that push and the amount of desperation it involves. Personally, I do not believe that anyone could talk Kılıçdaroğlu out of running for president at this point. It is possible, however, that Akşener wants the main opposition party and its chairperson to take the blame for the opposition’s potential defeat. Indeed, she warns that “we won’t be able to bring up parliamentarism again if we lost the next election.” In other words, the IP chairperson seems to be bracing for the massive political earthquake that could shake the opposition bloc in the election’s aftermath. Obviously, however, Kılıçdaroğlu will keep doing what he wants.

Kılıçdaroğlu showcased his greed

The CHP chairperson showcased his greed by refusing to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “on any platform” just two days after the twin earthquakes – while people were fighting for their lives under the rubble. The post-disaster situations further increased the likelihood of Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy. No meeting of opposition leaders will serve any purpose other than certifying his endorsement. The next tremor will probably take place when the opposition leaders start debating how they should collaborate with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). That is when Akşener will show her true colors. Nonetheless, Akşener’s most recent comments reminded everyone of the following fact: The table for six rests on political and ideological faultlines. Since the opposition bloc found it so difficult to pick a presidential candidate, it is clear that its potential victory shall trigger many more political earthquakes. As such, it is difficult for the table to reassure Turkish voters. What Türkiye needs is strong leadership to rebuild quake-struck areas and govern amid global crises like the Ukraine war. Thus President Erdoğan continues to heal the wounds of earthquake survivors and talks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to facilitate reconciliation and peace through a cease-fire and negotiations. [Daily Sabah, March 1 2023]