Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that his ruling AK Party and its nationalist ally will continue on their planned course after the opposition bloc split over who should run to challenge him in an a national election scheduled for May.
“We’ve said this was going to happen months ago…We have already set our goal…Whatever they do, we continue to work on our plan, on our road map,” state-owned TRT Haber reported Erdogan as saying.
The public split on Friday in an alliance of opposition parties followed months of simmering discord in the group and was seen by analysts as a blow to opposition hopes of unseating Erdogan, who has been in power for two decades.
Erdogan said this week that the elections would go ahead on May 14, despite criticism of his government’s response to last month’s devastating earthquakes, which killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey.
Meral Aksener, leader of the centre-right nationalist IYI Party, the second biggest in the alliance, announced on Friday the party was leaving the bloc.
She said that at a presidential candidate selection meeting this week, five parties in the alliance proposed KemalKilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), as their candidate.
Aksener accused members of the alliance of pressuring her party and defying people’s will, adding that she proposed Mansur Yavas and Ekrem Imamoglu, CHP mayors of the capital Ankara and Istanbul respectively, as candidates.
The CHP has the largest voter base in the alliance followed by IYI Party. Kilicdaroglu has said that there is no room for political games in the alliance and signalled that more parties could join the bloc.
Five remaining leaders of the opposition alliance met on Saturday and were expected to issue a statement following discussions.
“The best hope for the crisis-struck opposition now is to keep Erdogan under 50% in the first round (of voting) and show unity in the second round,” said Erdem Aydin, founder of London-based RDM Advisory.
“As things stand both IYI and CHP showed poor leadership and communications which culminated in a crisis … Nobody wins in this scenario, except for Erdogan,” Aydin said.
Erdogan’s popularity had been dipping amid a cost of living crisis even before last month’s earthquakes.
The opposition has failed in previous national votes to pose a serious challenge to the president. It has cooperated more closely since taking control of major municipalities, including Istanbul and Ankara, from the AK Party in local elections in 2019.
Separately, Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party(HDP), a key factor in the bid to defeat Erdogan on May 14, called on the opposition to unite around democracy, justice and freedom.