ANKARA (AP): Opposition politicians sought Monday to salvage an alliance that was left in disarray following a dispute 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 a six-party alliance on Friday, rejecting the likely nomination of main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Aksener went on to call on the popular mayors of Ankara and Istanbul — both from the CHP party — to defy the party leadership and and run in the elections instead of Kilicdaroglu.
Aksener’s split from the alliance — less than three months before 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.
Aksener, a former interior minister whose party is the second largest in the opposition bloc, was reported to have favored either of the mayors instead of Kilicdaroglu, who has failed to win a national election in the 13 years he has led the CHP. The two mayors have been showing more favorable poll ratings against Erdogan than Kilicdaroglu.
On Monday, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas 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.
Aksener and Kilicdaroglu then met, during which the two discussed a compromise solution where the mayors could be nominated as vice-presidents, said an Iyi Party spokesman.
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.
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.