Can the opposition have any chance against Erdoğan?

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Once again the battle lines are being drawn as Turkey heads for the first ever presidential elections where the people of this country will elect their own head of state. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the favorite at this point of time to win the elections if he is named a presidential candidate. Incumbent President Abdullah Gül is the second favorite should Erdoğan prefer not to run for the presidency. There is not third person favored to win the presidential race…

The opposition parties, especially the so-called left-wing Republican People's Party (CHP) led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chaired by Devlet Bahçeli, beg to differ. They have started to toy with the idea that if they come up with a plausible candidate he or she may well win the race and beat Erdoğan or Gül. Thus they say the election of Erdoğan or Gül as president is not a foregone conclusion.

Of course nothing is a foregone conclusion. Saying Erdoğan or Gül will be the president next September would be an insult to the Turkish voters and no one would dare utter such a claim. It is up to the will of the nation to choose their president but the recent local election results of March 30 show clearly that there is a strong possibility that the people will vote in masses for Erdoğan in the next elections.

They would also turn out to support Abdullah Gül in case Erdoğan does not become a candidate not only because the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AK Party) backs him but also there is much sympathy for him across the country.

Kılıçdaroğlu has stated Erdoğan should not even be a candidate. He said the president should be a person who can be even handed and independent. He says whoever is president has to embrace all the masses. He also wants the president to be someone that is not involved in politics. This is rather awkward when the head of state is being elected by the direct votes of the people and is expected to fulfill a political role as much as try to be an honest arbitrator.

In a TV interview on Turkish CNN Kılıçdaroğlu said he will not be a candidate but people like former CHP Ankara Mayoral candidate Mansur Yavaş or Turkish Bar Associations chief Metin Feyzioğlu could be a candidate.

MHP boss Devlet Bahçeli also strongly opposes Erdoğan's candidacy and says the next president has to be a conservative person, a nationalist person and has to respect moral values.

Yet, both Kılıçdaroğlu and Bahçeli area aware that if they field their own candidates the candidate supported by the AK Party will win. So they seem to have warmed to the idea that they can produce a joint candidate who will have some chance against Erdoğan or Gül.

Bahçeli have come up with a strange formula with triangles that eventually suggest a joint candidate by CHP and MHP may win some votes from the AK Party…

Both CHP and MHP seem to be grasping at the example of Mansur Yavaş who came close to beating AK Party in the mayoral race in Ankara. But that example may well be deficient. Yes, Yavaş, a former MHP mayor with strong conservative views became the candidate of the CHP in Ankara. At first the CHP people were up in arms but eventually accepted Yavaş and voted for him at the polls in Ankara. It was a close race not because AK Party people held Yavaş in high esteem and voted for him but because so many of them had much dislike for Mayor Melih Gökçek and did not want to vote for him even as an AK party candidate. Anyone else as AK Party candidate in Ankara would have beat Mansur Yavaş with a wide margin…

Coming up with a viable candidate who will bring together the CHP and MHP votes seems like a tough mission if not impossible. It is like bringing together an apple and pear and trying to produce a banana. Yet even if this was done trying to beat a charismatic and popular leader like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may well be a lost cause.

The MHP and CHP strategists seem to hope that a joint candidate may also win the Kurdish votes but there too they are mistaken.

Whether the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) likes it or not their supporters are openly preparing to back Erdoğan who has successfully led the current peace process.

Erdoğan clearly has a strong chance and so does Gül. The rest may well be empty talk.

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