The Good Party (IP) took another step toward contesting next year’s municipal elections without joining any alliance as Kürşad Zorlu, the movement’s spokesperson, announced their decision to field mayoral candidates in all 81 provinces. As such, IP Chairperson Meral Akşener shut the door on a potential alliance with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) – at least for now.
Whether that door will reopen or get locked altogether will not become clear for another couple of months. Those folks, who claim that the IP will start negotiating terms with the CHP shortly, resort to exaggeration and condescension. Yet the memory of Akşener leaving and returning to the “table for six” in March 2023 remains perfectly fresh – which is why hardly anyone is ready to rule out a new round of talks altogether.
Nonetheless, forming an alliance (or cooperating) becomes harder for the opposition as the time runs out. Furthermore, the CHP and the IP (and various parties within CHP) are likely to disagree over who shall form that potential alliance.
With whom would Akşener be willing to cooperate? Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu, who calls for an alliance in Istanbul, or Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş, who talks about a mayor with no affiliation? Could she collaborate with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who insists that he can create the “table of 16”? And who could prevent the Green Left Party (YSP), formerly known as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), from fielding its own mayoral candidates?
The IP wants to contest next year’s municipal elections alone to create a new alternative for the 2028 general elections and the 2029 municipal elections. In other words, it seeks to break the cycle of costing another party the election or helping them win it. The only way for the IP to reach that goal is to claim that it could govern Türkiye, Ankara and Istanbul better than others.
The IP cannot distinguish itself from the CHP by endorsing CHP-affiliated candidates like Imamoğlu and Yavaş. That is because joining forces with the main opposition party deprives the IP and others of their ambition to lead.
Couldn’t the IP wait until after the 2024 municipal elections to try and create a third way? The answer is affirmative, but it needs to pass the “election test” to become the CHP’s alternative by liberating itself from the burden of the 2019 and 2023 alliances.
Moreover, it is important to note that the pre-May 2023 political atmosphere has largely dissipated ahead of next year’s municipal elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “invincibility” and the opposition’s “fragmentation and cheap bargains” have alienated opposition voters. If Akşener, whose ability to create a right-wing political and ideological alternative remains unclear, decides to join an alliance at the 11th hour, she won’t be able to adopt the “third-way” discourse anew – and even her own supporters won’t pay attention if she tries.
CHP’s internal struggle
Who will lead the opposition’s efforts to cooperate is also relevant to the CHP’s internal balance of power. If Kılıçdaroğlu wins the Istanbul congress in October and launches such an effort, he will keep his job as CHP chairperson for sure. If Imamoğlu or Yavaş form that alliance, however, Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership will be undermined yet again.
Would Akşener risk enraging her party anew to endorse Imamoğlu, who said that “Istanbul is not just a local race and, in this sense, I believe that they will be open to dialogue”? Forming the so-called Istanbul alliance would strengthen Imamoğlu’s bid to lead the main opposition party – which is why Kılıçdaroğlu will try not to let Imamoğlu unite the opposition. That’s because the CHP chair’s remaining political capital is linked to his ability to establish the “table for six” by uniting the opposition.
Kılıçdaroğlu will start by emphasizing “intra-party democracy” to de-escalate tensions within the movement through Özgür Özel’s bid to become the next chairperson. He will thereby address the charge of “one-man rule” that emerged after his latest defeat among voters and in the media by presenting himself as a democrat – and partly solve his problem of legitimacy. Finally, Kılıçdaroğlu will make an effort to form a new opposition alliance.
Yet the CHP chairperson has difficult questions to answer. What could he possibly offer to the IP and the HDP for their endorsement of Imamoğlu and Yavaş – provided that many CHP supporters already do not see their party affiliation as sufficiently strong? Would CHP supporters risk losing the election just to “change” their party’s ways? How would the CHP leader fight to keep his seat and strike a deal with the opposition?
Even if the opposition parties were to reach an agreement to work together after careful consideration, it would prove difficult for them to attract the electorate’s attention. That was the main takeaway from the May 2023 elections. Fragmentation and the idea of personal/party interests rendered the opposition’s proposed common policies ineffective on the popular level. Right now, what matters more is who would form the alliance and which party will win more.
In this article
- Ekrem İmamoğlu
- İstanbul Alliance
- Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
- Mansur Yavaş
- Meral Akşener
- Özgür Özel
- Table for Six | Turkish Opposition Alliance
- Turkish Opposition
- Türkiye's Good Party (IP)
- Türkiye's Good Party (IP) Chairperson
- Türkiye's Green Left Party (YSP)
- Türkiye's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)
- Türkiye's Republican People's Party (CHP)
- Türkiye's Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson