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Who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu? The man trying to overthrow Erdogan in Türkiye

Who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu?  The man trying to overthrow Erdogan in Türkiye


ANKARA, Turkey Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Turkey’s opposition leader challenging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned in an interview this week that his opponents would try to create an environment of chaos ahead of Sunday’s vote, alluding to fears that tensions policies only threaten the country’s biggest election consequences in decades.

They will incite the public. They will provoke them, Kilicdaroglu, 74, said of Erdogan and his political allies in an interview Monday at his office in Ankara, the Turkish capital, referring to an incident last weekend in which a crowd threw stones at a bus belonging to a member. of the Kilicdaroglus party in the eastern city of Erzurum.

People are mostly on the side of change, Kilicdaroglu said, adding that he did not expect the Turks to be pushed into violence. Whatever difficulties they create, so be it. Voters will be persistent.

Opinion polls have shown a tight race between Kilicdaroglu (KUH-litch-DAR-oh-loo), a former government bureaucrat who leads Turkey’s largest opposition party, and Erdogan, 69, who leads the Turkey since 2003. Kilicdaroglu’s campaign messages have leaned heavily on optimism and hope an effort to break away from Erdogan’s offensive rhetoric and stir up an audience struggling with crushing economic burdens and the trauma of February earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people.

Why the upcoming elections in Türkiye are so important for the world

Erdogan’s defeat would have profound consequences at home, where his leadership has been defined by a personalized one-man government, and for Turkey abroad, where NATO members’ ties with the United States and governments from Europe to the Middle East have been marked by frequent episodes of crisis. Turks voting on Sunday will also elect MPs.

Kilicdaroglu said he would prioritize repairing Turkey’s economy and strengthening democracy while ending authoritarian rule. In foreign policy, his administration would ease what he called the country’s isolation from the world and restore power to a diplomatic corps sidelined under Erdogan. Analysts say Kilicdaroglu is likely to preserve Turkey’s ties with Russia, an important trading partner, despite criticizing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Relations with the United States would be more balanced under his administration, he said, citing Turkey’s suspension of the F-35 joint strike fighter program after Erdogan’s decision to buy a system air defense to Russia. Kilicdaroglu did not specify how this dispute would be resolved. Of the Russian air defense system, the S-400, he said, Turkey currently has the most expensive scrap in the world.

Kilicdaroglu is an unlikely challenger, possessing none of Erdogan’s charisma and, before the campaign, little popularity for the president, including among opposition supporters, who appeared to favor other members of the Kilicdaroglu party as candidates for the presidential. His biography notes that after stints at the Ministry of Finance and the Turkish Social Security Agency, Kilicdaroglu was chosen by a magazine as its 1994 bureaucrat of the year.

As leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the centrist party created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, Kilicdaroglu, was best known for losing several elections to Erdogan. And he has been accused by some of timidity as the president centralized power after a failed coup attempt in 2016 and continued a crackdown on perceived enemies and dissenters.

Elections in Turkey: are voters ready to leave Erdogan?

That year, Kilicdaroglu supported a government measure to lift the immunity of MPs, paving the way for the arrest of lawmakers from a popular pro-Kurdish opposition party.

Perceptions of Kilicdaroglu began to change in 2017 when the CHP organized a March for Justice to protest the arrest of one of its lawmakers amid intensified government crackdowns. The march marked a turning point, as it was when Kilicdaroglu started showing this transformed CHP to society, said Seren Selvin Korkmaz, who studies the Turkish opposition and is the founder and executive director of the IstanPol Institute. .

Over the past decade, as Erdogan has tightened his grip on Turkish institutions, including changing the government from a parliamentary to a presidential system, the CHP has been forced to reckon with the fact that he does not was more the state party, as it had been historically, and needed to focus on its links to society, she said.

Under Kilicdaroglu, the CHP made efforts to reach Turkey’s Kurdish minority as well as conservative Muslim voters who formed the core of Erdogans’ constituency.

Kilicdaroglus perceived responsibilities, his calm attitude, his bureaucratic experience have become assets in this electoral campaign, while he cobbled together a coalition of parties with disparate opinions to challenge Erdogan. He is a master at forging alliances and co-opting opponents, Korkmaz said. That didn’t stop longstanding differences between the coalition partners from coming to light, including when Kilicdaroglus’ candidacy was announced in March.

Kilicdaroglu, who says he grew up in a poor house in eastern Turkey and sometimes worked in watermelon fields during the summers, tried to showcase his working-class values ​​by recording campaign videos in what appears to be his modest kitchen another attempt to distinguish himself from Erdogan, whose presidential palace in Ankara, visible from the headquarters of the CHP, has more than a thousand rooms.

From his kitchen table, Erdogan’s challenger gets his message across

In one of the videos, Kilicdaroglu talks about his upbringing as a member of the persecuted Alevi religious minority in Turkey, addressing in public an issue that some of his supporters privately fear could make him ineligible in a Sunni Muslim-majority country. The video has racked up tens of millions of views.

Kilicdaroglu has also increasingly avoided the negative campaign rhetoric about Erdogan he has used in the past, Korkmaz said. Erdogan is not the focus of his campaign. A similar electoral theme, called radical love, bore fruit for the CHP in 2019, when the parties’ mayoral candidates won surprise victories in Istanbul and Ankara.

The positive messages of the parties in favor of human rights, freedoms and democracy reach their limits on the subject of immigrants and asylum seekers. Kilicdaroglu has pledged to return millions of refugees hosted by Turkey within two years, including around 4 million Syrians who fled their country’s civil war, a policy he has repeatedly insisted on. not racist.

Emphasizing why Syrians in Turkey are a problem, Kilicdaroglu noted that refugees live in dire conditions, many work for less than minimum wage and none are eligible for social security. It bothers us, he says. What will happen to these people tomorrow when they grow old? Erdogan, who hosted Syrian refugees for years before closing the borders, also pledged to send hundreds of thousands of people back to their country.

Some of Kilicdaroglus’ other policies run counter to core nationalist positions, including criticism of US support for a Kurdish-led militia in Syria affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). We know that the terrorist organization receives weapons from the West. We also know that the terrorist organization is financed by the West, he said.

But he added that Turkey needed to be part of what he called Western civilization, a term he said included non-Western democracies that respect human rights and have a balance of power.

As he did during his campaign, Kilicdaroglu reserved most of his attention in the interview for the changes he would bring to Turkey, where he pledged to restore a parliamentary system. People should not be prosecuted or imprisoned for their thoughts, he said, adding that judges who had refused to release political prisoners, in line with rulings from the country’s highest court or the European Court of Human Rights of man, were to be revoked.

They take their orders from the palace, he said.

Responding to a recent line of attack from Erdogan and his allies portraying the opposition as pro-LGBTQ to bolster support for conservatives, Kilicdaroglu said: We have an understanding that respects human rights. The privacy of individuals, their identities and their beliefs are not a political issue. He suggested that pride parades, banned under Erdogan, would be allowed again.

Turkey is a country of prohibitions, he said. When we are in power, Turkey will be a country of freedom.




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