Turkey’s main opposition nominates combative e-teacher to challenge Erdogan

Muharrem Ince, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party candidate for the upcoming snap presidential election, greets his supporters at a party gathering in Ankara, on May 4. (Reuters)
Updated 05 May 2018

Turkey’s main opposition nominates combative e-teacher to challenge Erdogan

  • Ince, a lawmaker from the northwestern province of Yalova, vowed to end partisanship in the judiciary and public services
  • To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of the votes

ANKARA: 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 the June 24 snap presidential election.
The secularist CHP, which has never won an election against Erdogan in his decade and a half in power, chose 54-year-old ex- 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 24,” 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 head of state.
Ince is widely known as one of the most spirited speakers from the opposition in parliament. He ran 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 drawing in more conservative and right-wing voters, beyond the CHP’s base of secular, Western-oriented Turks.
Ince said that as president, he would not live in the 1,000-room presidential palace built by Erdogan in Ankara, saying he would turn it into a “haven of learning” instead.
Against Erdogan, a masterful campaigner, the CHP has failed to gain momentum outside its core base of secular voters. In the last parliamentary election in November 2015 it took 25.3 percent of the vote, with much of that coming from large cities such as Istanbul and Izmir and the western coastal region.
Ince, a lawmaker from the northwestern province of Yalova, vowed to end partisanship in the judiciary and public services, and make amendments to an ailing economy suffering double-digit inflation, a gaping current account deficit and a slide in the lira of more than 10 percent against dollar this year.
Erdogan’s most credible challenge, however, is seen as coming not from the CHP but former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, who last year founded the Iyi (Good) Party after splitting with the nationalist MHP, which is backing Erdogan.
An opinion poll conducted in mid-April put Erdogan well ahead in the race with 40 percent followed by Aksener at 30 percent, Ince 20 percent and the jailed pro-Kurdish opposition HDP party leader Selahattin Demirtas under 10 percent.
The CHP, the Iyi Party and two other parties are this week expected to seal an election alliance to create a broad coalition against Erdogan. This has raised speculation that the CHP could pull its candidate in the second round of voting and back Aksener.
To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of the votes. Polls indicate a second round is likely to transpire and would be on July 8 if necessary.


Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

Updated 26 min 20 sec ago

Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

COLOMBO: Campaigning for Sri Lanka’s Nov. 16 presidential elections came to an end on Wednesday.

Competition is tight between the United National Front’s (UNF) candidate, Sajith Premadasa, and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

Rajapaksa’s final rally took place in the town of Homagama on Wednesday evening, while Premadasa concluded his campaign in Colombo.

Thus far, 35 candidates have submitted their nominations, while two — Milroy Fernando and Dr. I.M. Illyas — have openly urged supporters to vote for Premadasa.

In comments to the media on Wednesday, Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, said all candidates have been requested to attend a special meeting on Thursday to be briefed about the electoral process, including the counting of votes and the announcement of results.

The commission urged the candidates not to partake in any promotional activities on social media.

It has received 3,729 complaints pertaining to vandalism and violation of laws, leading up to the elections, with 27 cases of violence reported. Additionally, 3,596 election law violations were reported.

To address these concerns, the commission is setting up complaints offices at the Elections Secretariat in Rajagiriya and all other district offices.

Ali Sabry, chief legal adviser to Gotabaya, told Arab News that a proven track record will propel Gotabaya to victory.

Sabry added that Gotabaya is taking credit for eliminating terrorism in Sri Lanka. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiudeen, who was involved in Premadasa’s political campaign, told Arab News that he is hopeful about his candidate’s chances.

Bathiudeen, who is the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, said Premadasa would garner 95 percent of the Muslim vote and a majority of Tamil votes.

Azath Salley, leader of the National Unity Alliance, said: “The majority of the Tamil and Muslim communities are with … Premadasa.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, N. M. Amin, said this is the first time that incidents of election violence are few and far between.

Meanwhile, a group deployed by the Commonwealth to observe the presidential elections has called on stakeholders to demonstrate a commitment to a “peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive” poll.

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) was invited by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to observe the poll.

The COG will receive briefings from relevant stakeholders including election management officials, representatives of political parties, civil society groups, the police, members of the international community, citizens and international observers.

In a statement, COG Chair Prosper Bani said: “As independent observers, we will remain objective and impartial in discharging our duties. The Group’s assessment will be its own and not that of any Commonwealth member country. We hope that our group’s presence will support the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka.”