Turkey‘s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Friday nominated one its most prominent and combative lawmakers to challenge President Tayyip Erdogan in June 24 snap presidential polls.
The secularist CHP, which has never won an election against Erdogan in his decade and a half in power, nominated 53-year-old former high school physics teacher Muharrem Ince as its candidate.
“I will be everyone’s president, a non-partisan president. The depressing times will end on June 24th,” Ince told thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in Ankara, where he was introduced by party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Kilicdaroglu had previously said he would not run for president, saying the head of a party should not simultaneously serve as the head of state.
Ince is widely known as one of the most spirited speakers from the opposition in parliament. He has run as the sole challenger for party leadership against Kilicdaroglu in the last two CHP party elections, in 2014 and 2018.
He is seen as a candidate who can match the harsh rhetoric often used by Erdogan, while also receiving backing from the party’s own voter base, as well as conservative and right-wing voters.
However, Erdogan’s most credible challenge is seen as coming not from the CHP but from former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, who last year founded the Iyi (Good) Party after splitting with the nationalist MHP party, which is supporting Erdogan.
The CHP, the Iyi Party and two other parties are this week expected to agree on an election alliance, to create a broad coalition against Erdogan. This has lead to speculation the CHP could pull its candidate in the second round of voting and back Aksener.