Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said it would be an honor to run as the joint presidential candidate for the opposition in the next elections, closing the door on the possibility of the mayors of two of Turkey's biggest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, representing the bloc.
In an interview with Reuters published Monday, he said: "Of course, five party leaders pronouncing me as the candidate would be an honor. It also means they have trust."
While Kılıçdaroğlu seems a less popular option for voters in surveys, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş appear to be the two most popular presidential candidates among opposition figures to race against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Commenting on their potential candidacy, the CHP leader said: "These surveys are of no importance for today," adding that Imamoğlu and Yavaş would continue running the country's two biggest cities.
Despite Kılıçdaroğlu's intention to serve as the joint candidate of the alliance bloc, polls show several other opposition figures winning more support and it is frequently reported that both Imamoğlu and Yavaş want to run as candidates in the next presidential elections.
The main opposition center-left CHP cooperates with the right-wing nationalist Good Party (IP), the conservative Felicity Party (SP) and the center-right Democrat Party (DP) under the Nation Alliance, which was formed before the general elections in June 2018. The newly formed Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and Future Party (GP) have also been cooperating with them in recent meetings to discuss a return to the parliamentary system if the opposition bloc wins the presidency in the next elections.
The opposition bloc frequently voices demands for early elections and a return to the parliamentary system. On the other hand, Erdoğan, senior government officials and the ruling bloc led by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have repeatedly dismissed the demands from the opposition for early elections, saying the next elections will be held as scheduled in 2023.
The six opposition party leaders will discuss their candidate later but first need to agree on economic, social and other policies for their joint platform, Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that it is "very obvious and very clear" that whoever they choose will become president.
It has been nearly five years since Turkey switched from a parliamentary system to the current presidential system after the majority of Turkish voters opted to create the new system. Turkish voters narrowly endorsed an executive presidency on April 16, 2017, with a referendum of 51.4% votes in favor. The official transition to the new system took place when Erdoğan was sworn in as the president in Parliament after the 2018 general elections, which he won by a majority of 52.6% votes.
Turkey will send home the millions of Syrian refugees it hosts and reestablish diplomatic ties with Bashar Assad if the opposition alliance wins the elections, Kılıçdaoğlu also said.
"If needed, the United Nations needs to get involved, a 100% guarantee should be received from Assad. That guarantee needs to be tied to international accords along with assurances that he will not attack them, and that the security of their material possessions and life will be maintained," he said.