Kemal Kilicdaroglu the eternal opponent of Erdogan who could change

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu: the eternal opponent of Erdogan who could change Türkiye

The social democrat, known for leading his party for more than a decade, has managed to reach all sectors of society with his election campaign

Kemal Kilicdaroğlu (1948) has gone from perpetual opposition candidate with no charisma to leader of an opposition coalition with a serious chance of ending two decades of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. His political career experienced a turning point five years ago when he led a large march from Ankara to Istanbul to denounce President Erdogan’s authoritarian course.

Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the Social Democratic formation Republican People’s Party (CHP), entered the Turkish Parliament in 2002, the same year that Erdogan came to power. His party, with a social-democratic and nationalist leaning, cashes in on the legacy of the republic’s founder, although Kiliçdaroglu is part of the center. left wing of the party. Critics of his career point to Kiliçdaroglu’s lack of charisma In view of Erdogan’s aggressiveness and charisma, he has always opted for a more discreet and forgiving profile. He lost to the Turkish President in several elections, but maintained his influence in the party and gained support until he achieved the current presidential candidacy. Together with his party, they have managed to form a grand anti-Erdogan coalition of forces that includes nationalist, liberal and Islamist parties, including two formations that emerged from former allies of Erdogan himself.

Kiliçdaroglu also led the 2019 local election campaign in which the CHP won the country’s major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, which currently have two very popular mayors. Ekrem Imamoglu in Istanbul and Mansur Yavas in Ankara were possible candidates for the presidency of the coalition that ultimately elected Kiliçdaroglu. The consensus alliance eventually chose the current leader with hopes of gaining more popular support and not losing both mayoral offices.

In this election campaign, Kiliçdaroglu surprised his critics by addressing all sectors of society with a conciliatory discourse, close to the country’s minorities and in particular to the five million young people voting in these elections for the first time. In a video that has become the campaign’s most viral message, with more than 40 million views, Kiliçdaroglu explains his Alevi origins, a religious minority that has been demanding more freedom to claim its identity and express its culture and religion for decades. The social-democratic leader wants to abandon the presidential system, in which the head of state concentrates much of the executive power, and strengthen the country’s institutions.

Kiliçdaroglu was born in Tunceli province in central Turkey and studied economics at Ankara University. Before leading the CHP party, he held various senior positions in the trade sector, in Turkey’s Ministry of Economy and as director of the country’s largest private bank, Is Bankasi.

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