Kilicdaroglu backs Gul to take on Erdogan: columnist

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will back former president Abdullah Gul to take on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the next election, Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said on Friday.

Gul served as the first president from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2007 and 2014, before stepping away from frontline politics amid rumored tension with Erdogan.

Widely regarded as a more liberal figure, Gul has been repeatedly touted as a potential unity candidate capable of overcoming the polarized nature of Turkish politics.

Gul won the backing of both the secular CHP and the smaller, Islamist Felicity Party to run in the 2018 presidential election for the Nation Alliance. But his candidacy faltered after being opposed by the nationalist Good Party, which makes up the third grouping in the electoral coalition.

But Selvi said Gul remains the presidential candidate favored by CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as he seeks to build a broad consensus to return Turkey to a parliamentary political system.

A 2017 referendum granted Erdogan expanded executive powers, a move critic says has removed constitutional checks and balances, and further undermined Turkish democracy.

However, Kilicdaroglu is set to face opposition from his party’s grassroots, who are more likely to favor Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas or Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, Selvi said.

Both mayors sit more comfortably within the CHP’s secular-nationalist tradition and have bolstered their appeal by uniting a diverse range of opposition voters to win at the 2019 local elections.

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