- By Robert Greenall
- BBC News
Turkey’s often divided opposition parties have come together to choose a single candidate to take on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the May elections.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu leads the main secular opposition party, the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Opinion polls indicate a tight race in a deeply polarized country after two decades of authoritarian Erdogan rule.
Kilicdaroglu, a former civil servant, was cheered by a large crowd of supporters as he was chosen by the six-party opposition coalition.
Known as “Gandhi Kemal” or “Turkish Gandhi” for his resemblance to Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, the quiet 74-year-old offers a vision radically different in substance and style from that of the fiery and charismatic Mr. Erdogan.
However, some of Kilicdaroglu’s allies fear he lacks traction.
He promised his supporters that he would rule Turkey through consensus and consultation.
He was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying: “Our table is the table of peace.” “Our only goal is to take the country to days of prosperity, peace and joy.”
He also said he would return the country to a parliamentary system – Erdogan oversaw the transition to a presidential system in 2018, gaining sweeping powers.
Created by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the CHP is the country’s oldest political party, although it has been centrally out of power since the 1990s.
However, Mr. Kilicdaroglu has broadened his appeal by embracing minorities and forming alliances with right-wing parties.
He has also shown himself willing to challenge Mr. Erdogan, a leader who has become increasingly intolerant of criticism.
In the February earthquake, which killed more than 45,000 people in southeastern Turkey, Kilicdaroglu led attacks on the government, which he said allowed corruption and poor building standards.
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