Who’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu? The person attempting to unseat Erdogan in Turkey


ANKARA, Turkey — Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Turkish opposition chief difficult President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned in an interview this week that his opponents would attempt to “create an surroundings of chaos” earlier than the voting Sunday, alluding to fears that political tensions might threaten the nation’s most consequential election in a long time.

“They’re going to incite the general public. They’re going to provoke them,” Kilicdaroglu, 74, mentioned of Erdogan and his political allies in an interview Monday in his workplace in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, referring to an incident final weekend by which a mob threw rocks at a bus belonging to a member of Kilicdaroglu’s get together within the japanese metropolis of Erzurum.

“The individuals are primarily on the facet of change,” mentioned Kilicdaroglu, including that he didn’t anticipate Turks to be goaded into violence. “No matter difficulties they create, so be it. Voters will probably be persistent.”

Opinion polls have proven a decent race between Kilicdaroglu (KUH-litch-DAR-oh-loo), a former authorities bureaucrat who leads Turkey’s largest opposition get together, and Erdogan, 69, who has dominated Turkey since 2003. Kilicdaroglu’s marketing campaign messages have leaned closely on optimism and hope — an effort to separate himself from Erdogan’s attacking rhetoric and to stir a public fighting crushing financial burdens and the trauma of earthquakes in February that killed greater than 50,000 individuals.

Why Turkey’s upcoming elections matter so much for the world

Erdogan’s defeat would have profound penalties at dwelling, the place his management has been outlined by personalised one-man rule, and for Turkey overseas, the place the NATO member’s ties with the USA, and governments from Europe to the Center East, have been marked by frequent episodes of disaster. Turks voting Sunday can even elect members of parliament.

Kilicdaroglu mentioned he would prioritize repairing Turkey’s financial system and strengthening democracy whereas ending “authoritarian rule.” In international coverage, his administration would ease what he mentioned was the nation’s “isolation” all over the world and restore energy to a diplomatic corps sidelined below Erdogan. Analysts say Kilicdaroglu is prone to protect Turkey’s ties to Russia, an necessary industrial companion, although he has criticized Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Relations with the USA could be extra “balanced” below his administration, he mentioned, mentioning Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet program after Erdogan’s resolution to purchase an air protection system from Russia. Kilicdaroglu didn’t say how that dispute could be resolved. Of the Russian air protection system, the S-400, he mentioned, “Turkey at the moment owns the costliest scraps on the earth.”

Kilicdaroglu is an unlikely challenger, possessing none of Erdogan’s charisma and, earlier than the marketing campaign, little of the president’s reputation, together with amongst opposition supporters, who appeared to favor others from Kilicdaroglu’s get together as presidential candidates. His biography notes that, after stints within the Finance Ministry and Turkey’s social safety company, Kilicdaroglu was chosen by {a magazine} as its 1994 “Bureaucrat of the 12 months.”

Because the chief of the Republican Individuals’s Get together (CHP) — the centrist get together begun by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of recent Turkey — Kilicdaroglu was finest identified for shedding a number of elections to Erdogan. And he was accused by a few of timidity because the president centralized energy after a failed coup try in 2016 and pursued a crackdown on perceived enemies and dissidents.

Turkey elections: Are voters ready to move on from Erdogan?

That 12 months, Kilicdaroglu supported a authorities measure to elevate the immunity of members of parliament, clearing the best way for the arrests of lawmakers from a preferred pro-Kurdish opposition get together.

Perceptions of Kilicdaroglu began to alter in 2017 when the CHP held a “justice march” to protest the arrest of considered one of its lawmakers, as authorities repression intensified. The march marked a “turning level, as a result of it was the second that Kilicdaroglu started to point out this reworked CHP to the society,” mentioned Seren Selvin Korkmaz, who research Turkey’s opposition and is the founder and government director of the IstanPol Institute.

Over the previous decade, as Erdogan strengthened his grip on Turkey’s establishments — together with by altering the federal government from a parliamentary to a presidential system — the CHP was pressured to reckon with the truth that it was not the “state” get together, because it had been traditionally, and wanted to concentrate on its ties with society, she mentioned.

Underneath Kilicdaroglu, the CHP has made efforts to achieve out to Turkey’s Kurdish minority in addition to conservative Muslim voters who shaped the core of Erdogan’s constituency.

Kilicdaroglu’s perceived liabilities — his staid demeanor, his bureaucratic expertise — have grow to be strengths on this election marketing campaign, as he cobbled collectively a coalition of events with disparate views to problem Erdogan. “He’s grasp of constructing alliances, and co-opting opponents,” Korkmaz mentioned. That has not prevented long-standing variations between coalition companions from bursting into public view, together with when Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy was announced in March.

Kilicdaroglu, who says he grew up in a “poor dwelling” in japanese Turkey and generally labored in watermelon fields within the summers, has tried to spotlight his working-class values by recording marketing campaign movies in what seems to be his modest kitchen — one other try to differentiate himself from Erdogan, whose presidential palace in Ankara, seen from the CHP’s headquarters, has greater than a thousand rooms.

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

In one of many movies, Kilicdaroglu talks about his upbringing as a member of Turkey’s persecuted Alevi non secular minority — addressing in public a problem that a few of his supporters privately fretted might make him unelectable in a Sunni Muslim-majority nation. The video racked up tens of tens of millions of views.

Kilicdaroglu has additionally more and more shied away from the unfavorable marketing campaign rhetoric about Erdogan that he used previously, Korkmaz mentioned. Erdogan “will not be within the middle of his marketing campaign.” An analogous electoral theme, known as “radical love,” paid dividends for the CHP in 2019, when the get together’s candidates for mayor pulled off upset wins in Istanbul and Ankara.

The get together’s constructive messages — help for human rights, freedoms and democracy — attain their restrict on the subject of immigrants and asylum seekers. Kilicdaroglu has vowed to ship again inside two years tens of millions of refugees hosted by Turkey, together with about 4 million Syrians who fled their nation’s civil struggle, a coverage he has repeatedly insisted will not be “racist.”

Pressed on why Syrians in Turkey represented an issue, Kilicdaroglu famous that refugees dwell in dire situations, that many work for lower than minimal wage and that none are eligible for social safety. “This disturbs us,” he mentioned. “What’s going to occur to those individuals tomorrow once they age?” Erdogan, who welcomed Syrian refugees for years earlier than closing the borders, has additionally vowed to ship lots of of hundreds again to their nation.

A few of Kilicdaroglu’s different insurance policies hew to bedrock nationalist positions, together with criticism of U.S. help for a Kurdish-led militia in Syria affiliated with the militant Kurdistan Employees’ Get together (PKK). “We all know that the phobia group is receiving weapons from the West. We additionally know that the terrorist group is financed by the West,” he mentioned.

However he added that Turkey have to be a part of what he referred to as “Western civilization,” a time period he mentioned included non-Western democracies that respect human rights and have a steadiness of powers.

As he has throughout his marketing campaign, Kilicdaroglu reserved most of his focus within the interview for the adjustments he would deliver to Turkey, the place he has pledged to revive a parliamentary system. Individuals shouldn’t be “prosecuted or imprisoned for his or her ideas,” he mentioned, including that judges who had refused to launch political prisoners, in keeping with selections by the nation’s highest courtroom or the European Court docket of Human Rights, wanted to be “eliminated.”

“They’re receiving their orders from the palace,” he mentioned.

In response to a current assault line from Erdogan and his allies, portray the opposition as pro-LGBTQ to shore up help from conservatives, Kilicdaroglu mentioned: “We’ve got an understanding that respects human rights. The non-public lives of people, their identities, and their beliefs will not be a topic for politics.” He urged that Pleasure parades, banned below Erdogan, could be allowed once more.

“Turkey is a rustic of prohibitions,” he mentioned. “After we are in energy, Turkey will probably be a rustic of freedom.”


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