Column, Politics, Turkey

Muharrem Ince vs. Kemal Kilicdaroglu: Who’ll Win This Time?

Despite all the similarities, there is a significant difference between the latest mobilization of the opposition movement and the previous ones. The opposition movement now has a popular candidate for leadership who attracted the masses more than Kilicdaroglu: Muharrem Ince.

The main opposition party CHP faced with the rise of an intraparty opposition after the elections. Indeed, this phenomenon is not new for the CHP. After every failure in parliamentary and presidential elections, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of the party, was criticized harshly and was put under pressure for resignation. Nonetheless, the party delegates, who were appointed by Kilicdaroglu, re-elected him in each congress despite criticisms. The opposition in CHP got into action again after the June 24 elections with the demand of changing the party leadership.

Despite all the similarities, there is a significant difference between the latest mobilization of the opposition movement and the previous ones. The opposition movement now has a popular candidate for leadership who attracted the masses more than Kilicdaroglu: Muharrem Ince. Even if Ince was defeated by President Erdogan in the presidential elections, he got 30.6 percent of the votes which is approximately 8 percent higher than what the CHP got in parliamentary elections under the leadership of Kilicdaroglu. Some prominent names of the party interpret these results as an indicator of the de facto leadership of Muharrem Ince in the CHP.

Actually, Ince already ran for the chairmanship of the party against Kilicdaroglu twice. His first candidacy for chairmanship was in 2014 but he got only 415 votes against Kilicdaroglu’s 740 votes. The second one, on the other hand, was more recent. Just two months ago from the decision of snap election, Ince once again became a candidate for chairmanship of the party against Kilicdaroglu. During his short-term candidacy process, Ince blamed Kilicdaroglu for threatening delegates who supported him and forcing them to withdraw their signature to support Ince’s candidacy for chairmanship. At the end of the congress, Ince was defeated by Kilicdaroglu again.

While Ince was maintaining his criticisms towards Kilicdaroglu, the decision of snap elections totally changed the direction. Even though Kilicdaroglu worked hard for the joint candidacy of Abdullah Gül, he nominated Ince as the presidential candidate of the CHP at the end of the process. By this way, Kilicdaroglu passivized his main rival in the CHP. Ince’s failure in the elections would mean a decline in his competition against Kilicdaroglu. Additionally, while Ince was conducting his election campaign, Kilicdaroglu dissolved the names close to Ince in the CHP and prepared the candidate list for the parliamentary elections in accordance with this aim.

Nevertheless, Ince gained high popularity among the masses during the campaign process. He obtained sympathy among not only supporters of the CHP, but also the supporters of other parties. In the same period, Kilicdaroglu lost his authority within the party supporters. For instance, the CHP announced that Kilicdaroglu and Ince were going to organize joint meetings in some provinces. However, Ince’s supporters in the party reacted against this decision that they perceived an action damaging Ince’s image among the masses. As a result, these joint meetings were canceled.

After the elections, Ince underlined his success by highlighting his 30.6 percent – a figure the CHP has not reached in 41 years. He also criticized Kilicdaroglu. First, Ince stated that rather than persuading other parties to support the candidacy of Gul, Kilicdaroglu could have announced his nomination for the presidential elections earlier. Secondly, Ince criticized Kilicdaroglu for not congratulating Erdogan and his approach to the results. In this point, Ince stated that Kilicdaroglu should try to find the reasons of the decline in the votes of the party rather than emphasizing the decrease in the voting rates of the AK Party. All these indicators show that Ince may run for the chairmanship of the party again. Whether the support of the delegates will be enough for Kilicdaroglu to keep his chairmanship will be clear soon.

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Hazal Duran conducted her B.A in the fields of Turkish Language and Literature and International Relations at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology in 2012. She completed her M.A in Modern Turkish Studies at Istanbul Sehir University. While continuing her doctoral studies at Bilkent University, she is currently serving as a Researcher at the SETA Ankara Directorate of Political Studies.