Factbox: Key players in Turkey’s political opposition


Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Turkey’s main opposition leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), meets with fellow opposition party leaders Temel Karamollaoglu of the Saadet Party, Meral Aksener of the IYI (Good) Party, Ahmet Davutoglu of the Gelecek Party ( future) and Ali Babacan of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and Gultekin Uysal of the Democratic Party in Ankara, Turkey, February 12, 2022. Alp Eren Kaya/Republican People’s Party (CHP) /Handout via REUTERS

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ANKARA, Feb 21 (Reuters) – Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, said he saw no use in Ankara’s Russian missile defense purchases, which have triggered U.S. sanctions and would overhaul the Central Bank in the event of victory in the elections scheduled for June 2023. L8N2UR2B2

His party is one of six in an alliance aimed at overthrowing President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP). Here are descriptions of some of the main opposition figures in Turkish politics:


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Kemal Kilicdaroglu, 72, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has led the centre-left secular party since 2010. Under his leadership, the CHP has failed to close the gap with Erdogan’s AKP in the parliamentary elections. With support between 22 and 26% in the general election, critics questioned his ability to push the CHP to the top nationally. Kilicdaroglu was a civil servant who headed the social security institution before entering politics and he is a favorite target of Erdogan’s criticism in his speeches. His profile rose in 2017 when he led an opposition march from Ankara to Istanbul to protest the jailing of one of his party’s lawmakers.


Former interior minister Meral Aksener, 65, has risen to prominence in recent years as a potential challenger to Erdogan. She was expelled from the nationalist MHP party in 2016 after launching an unsuccessful bid to oust its longtime leader, Devlet Bahceli. In 2017, she formed the moderately nationalist IYI (Good) party, which formed an alliance with the CHP in the 2018 elections and has 36 lawmakers in the 600-seat parliament. She appeals to right-wing and nationalist voters who are disappointed with the MHP because of its alliance with the AKP. She pushed for a return to the parliamentary system which was replaced in 2018 by a presidential system under Erdogan.


After five years as CHP mayor of an Istanbul district, former businessman Ekrem Imamoglu, 51, rose to prominence in March 2019 by defeating the AKP mayoral candidate in the municipal elections. His status as a major new player in Turkish politics was boosted after authorities overturned that vote and he won another election more decisively, dealing a blow to Erdogan’s dominance. Backed by an opposition alliance, Imamoglu was successful in attracting more conservative voters beyond the party’s secular base. He has clashed with Erdogan at times over issues such as the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the president’s plans for a huge canal through western Istanbul. He is seen as a potential presidential candidate even as he leads Turkey’s largest city during a term slated to run until 2024.


Nationalist politician and lawyer Mansur Yavas, 66, defeated the AKP candidate in the 2019 municipal elections in the Turkish capital as a CHP candidate backed by an opposition alliance. Previously, he served for 10 years as the nationalist MHP mayor of a district of Ankara until 2009. He left the MHP in 2013 and joined the CHP the same year before narrowly losing the municipal elections of Ankara in 2014. Opinion polls indicated strong support for Yavas as a potential challenger to Erdogan domestically after he received praise for his performance as mayor of Ankara during the coronavirus pandemic.


Babacan, 54, is a former deputy prime minister and former close ally of Erdogan who resigned from the AKP in 2019 over “deep differences” over its leadership. He formed the Deva (Remedy) Party and called for reforms to strengthen the rule of law and democracy. He was Minister of Economy and Foreign Affairs before serving as Deputy Prime Minister from 2009 to 2015. He was well regarded by foreign investors when he was in charge of the economy.


Davutoglu, 62, served as prime minister between 2014 and 2016 but first rose to prominence as foreign minister between 2009 and 2014. He broke with Erdogan’s AKP in 2019 and created the Gelecek party (future). During the first decade of AKP rule, he championed a less confrontational foreign policy with the mantra “zero problems with neighbors”, but his strategy in the Middle East was derailed in the turmoil of the Arab uprisings. He has since criticized what he described as a drift towards authoritarianism under the executive presidency.

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Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alistair Bell

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