ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A key opposition party rejoined Turkey’s six-party alliance on Monday after a compromise was found over the nomination of a joint candidate to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in elections scheduled for May.
Meral Aksener, who leads the nationalist Iyi Party, broke away from the alliance on Friday, rejecting the likely selection of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
Aksener’s split from the alliance — less than three months before the presidential and parliamentary elections — was seen as a major boost for Erdogan, whose popularity has suffered amid a weak economy as well as his government’s response to a devastating earthquake last month.
Her departure left the grouping in disarray and frustrated millions of their supporters hoping for a change after two decades under Erdogan’s rule.
A former interior minister whose party is the second largest in the opposition bloc, Aksener was reported to have favored either of the popular mayors of Istanbul or Ankara instead of Kilicdaroglu.
Kilicdaroglu has failed to win a national election in the 13 years he has led the CHP. The two mayors — both from CHP — have been showing more favorable poll ratings against Erdogan than Kilicdaroglu.
A spokesman for IYI Party said Aksener was holding a meeting with the leaders of the five other members of the alliance to discuss the compromise solution, where Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas would be nominated as vice-presidents.
Earlier on Monday, Yavas and Imamoglu, who were elected to lead their cities in 2019, met with Aksener in an apparent attempt to convince her to return to the alliance.
“There is an election in front of us. Our nation cannot tolerate a separation,” Yavas told reporters.
Hamish Kinnear, Middle East and North Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft said the opposition was still able to unify behind a joint candidate.
“But the opposition alliance is running out of time … and already missed a golden opportunity to solidify opposition to Erdogan in the wake of February’s devastating earthquake,” he said.
The alliance has vowed to restore a parliamentary democracy in Turkey should they dislodge Erdogan, abolishing the presidential system that he introduced. Opponents say the system, which was narrowly approved in a 2017 referendum and was installed following elections in 2018, has amounted to “one-man rule” without checks and balances.
In addition to CHP and Iyi, the members of the alliance are: Temel Karamollaoglu’s conservative Felicity Party; Gultekin Uysal’s Democrat Party; The Democracy and Progress Party led by Ali Babacan; and Future Party chaired by Ahmet Davutoglu.
Excluded from the alliance is the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, which is the second largest opposition party. That party is facing closure following a severe crackdown by the government for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militant groups.
Erdogan took a dig at the fractured opposition on Saturday.
“We said months ago that this would be the case. They sat, they talked and they dispersed — as I said they would,” Erdogan said.