The opposition party CHP is sending Muharrem İnce into the race against Erdogan. He is considered a good speaker and appears determined.
"We are taking back our future": Muharrem İnce during his speech in Ankara Photo: dpa
Turkey’s largest opposition party CHP has nominated Muharrem İnce as its presidential candidate. The deputy from Yalova in western Turkey is expected to enter the race against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the early presidential election on June 24, as CHP party leader Kemal Kılıcdaroglu officially announced Friday morning in front of thousands of cheering supporters at a sports arena in Ankara.
"With the permission of God and the will of the nation, I will be elected on the 24th. June elected president," Muharrem İnce said on stage, announcing, "I am running not only as a candidate for the CHP, but to be the president of 80 million Kurds, Turks, Alevis and Sunnis." "President İnce" chants came from the audience. The 54-year-old promised to be a nonpartisan president and removed his party badge from his lapel on stage. Kılıcdaroglu symbolically pinned a Turkish flag on him.
İnce was born in 1964 as the son of a farmer in a village in Yalova province. After studying at Balıkesir University, he worked as a physics teacher and school principal and later became the press spokesman for the Yalovaspor soccer club. İnce has been a CHP member since his youth and was elected to parliament in 2002. He was also president of the Ataturkcu Dusunce Dernegi ("Association for the Promotion of Ataturk’s Ideas").
He is considered a staunch supporter of Ataturk, a spirited speaker and a sharp critic of Erdogan. He delivered his speech in the sports arena in Ankara on Friday morning freely. He directed strong words against Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AKP party. "They are not only stealing our future, but also that of our children and grandchildren," he said. "We will take back our future."
Criticism of party leadership
Muharrem İnce has not shied away from internal party criticism either. Twice he ran against Kemal Kılıcdaroglu in elections for party leader, but failed to win a majority in either 2014 or February 2018. At the CHP party congress in February, he called for change in the CHP, which critics have long accused of being incapable of effective opposition.
He was particularly harsh in his criticism of the party leadership at the party congress for voting to lift the immunity of HDP deputies in May 2016, which paved the way for the arrest of several HDP members. İnce himself had voted against lifting immunity in parliament. "The party leadership was afraid that the government would lump us together with the HDP. Let them. Can’t the Kurds be in the right?" he said, adding, "First they arrest HDP members, then us." For this he received thunderous applause from the CHP members. Still not enough for a majority, Kemal Kılıcdaroglu was re-elected party leader.
After lengthy deliberations by the CHP on who the party should nominate as its presidential candidate, all 110 CHP deputies voted in favor of Muharrem İnce on Friday morning. With this, the CHP is sending a determined deputy into the race who is accepted by the party base and will run decisively against Erdogan. Kılıcdaroglu respected the democratic procedure within the party and gave way to his former rival, who was supported by the party base.
Alongside the İyi Party, for which former Interior Minister Meral Aksener is running as a presidential candidate, and the pro-Kurdish left-wing HDP, for which ex-co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas is running from prison, the CHP is the last opposition party to now have a candidate in Muharrem İnce who is an electable alternative for CHP supporters. Whether İnce stands a chance against Erdogan, however, is questionable.