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HomeHeadlineErdoğan Shifts Focus: Boosting İmamoğlu Over Özel in Strategic Political Maneuver

Erdoğan Shifts Focus: Boosting İmamoğlu Over Özel in Strategic Political Maneuver

M. Ahmet Karabay

On one hand, there are those saying, “Turkey has four years ahead without elections,” while on the other, the CHP (Republican People’s Party) doesn’t want the debate over who their candidate will be to fade from the agenda. They are trying to overlook the discussion that should be happening about who the AK Party’s candidate will be.

Everyone knows that the main purpose of President and AK Party Chairman Tayyip Erdoğan’s new constitutional discussions is to devise a method to get himself re-elected. Even those with no interest in politics are aware that this is the purpose of the constitutional amendment.

It was a well-established fact in the constitution that Erdoğan could not be a candidate in the Presidential Election held on 14 May 2023. Nevertheless, due to the opposition’s approach at the time, which included sentiments like “We want to beat him at the ballot box!” and “Let there not be a victimization again!” his re-election was facilitated. It later became clear that some opposition leaders were engaged in this in different ways.

Knowing this landscape, we must look ahead to the coming period. However, the debate over who will be the candidate in the next period is being fought on the wrong field. The opposition needs to adopt the stance they took in the 31 March elections in Ankara and Istanbul regarding candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections.

Before the local elections, they employed the tactic, “Our candidates are clear, Mansur Yavaş and Ekrem İmamoğlu; you declare your candidates!” Until the last day, the ruling party could not announce their candidates in these cities, which was perceived as a lack of confidence by the voters.

Now, as General Chairman Özgür Özel puts it, the CHP has “two forwards.” Depending on the situation, a decision will be made on whether Mansur Yavaş or Ekrem İmamoğlu will be the candidate.


Tayyip Erdoğan, by leveraging his media power, tries to keep the discussion about candidacy in the CHP in the spotlight, and to some extent, he succeeds. What he overlooks is that in the AK Party, aside from Erdoğan, there isn’t even a name that could be a candidate with a chance of winning.

Who could be nominated in the ruling party? Before answering this question, who is there after the prominent leader in the AK Party?

Speaker of the Parliament Numan Kurtulmuş? Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan? Former Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar? The sons-in-law Berat Albayrak or Selçuk Bayraktar? Son Bilal Erdoğan? Which of these names could run for president and win? Without the Erdoğan factor, none of them mean much or have any substantial weight. For Erdoğan, these individuals are like the digit to the left of zeros. None of them have an independent standing in society.

Knowing we are making this simple assessment, it is impossible that Erdoğan does not realize these individuals under him lack ‘specific gravity’. Hakan Fidan, who was mythologized while heading the National Intelligence Organization, began to deflate like a balloon once he was heard.

(Hakan Fidan’s dream of becoming the primary leader is not over yet. It’s being discussed that he is trying to organize within a party that is frequently mentioned these days. I am waiting for more details. I will share them once they arrive.)

That is why the Presidential Palace, using all its power, tries to keep the topic of candidacy on the opposing field. Özgür Özel pointed this out in an interview with journalist Nevşin Mengü:

“Discussing candidates from today is as damaging to our party and the opposition as repeating mistakes. I will repeat the truths and not the mistakes. It is wrong to start discussing candidacy early. To impose one’s own candidacy means risking the election when there are better candidates. I won’t make such a mistake. Whoever is the candidate of the Republican People’s Party who can win, will be it. Whoever can achieve the best result, will be it.”


The level of self-doubt in the opposition is interesting. Just as overconfidence is a problem, so is self-doubt. The opposition, having not seen power for many years, is experiencing the latter.

Özgür Özel said in the interview with Nevşin Mengü that he saw the election results ten days before going to the polls. Regarding the self-confidence issue among some party members, he added, “Thank God the voters believed what I saw. If it were up to those who criticized me, we would all be ruined. Thank God the voters believed us and not them.”

Özel has cast himself in the role of a coach: “Currently, the team has two forwards. One is Mansur Yavaş, the other is Ekrem İmamoğlu. A coach doesn’t say, ‘I will take the penalty.’ He lets his most in-form player take it. When the day comes, one of our friends will be a presidential candidate.”

The biggest problem in a game with two forwards isn’t just the competition between them and one trying to knock out the other using underhand tactics. This is a predictable situation, so the “coach” and his assistants can prevent it. A bigger problem will be the Presidential Palace trying to manipulate these candidates.

There are few leaders in the world who can match Erdoğan in terms of scheming. Some of what he will do with two forwards is predictable. Some, however, are not so easy to foresee.

A clear picture emerges today. Erdoğan, through his media, is ignoring Mansur Yavaş, who has significant public support, and making his name fade. On the other hand, he appears to be trying to promote Özgür Özel.

It seems that he will play on Özgür Özel and Ekrem İmamoğlu. Whoever can yield more, he will do direct or reverse shots. It appears that he is directly promoting Özgür Özel. He will try to make Özel say, “I did all this and succeeded. Why should I gift the country’s top position, the presidency, to someone else?”

As for Ekrem İmamoğlu, he will support him with reverse shots. Even someone once hinted at by Erdoğan was like a stroke of luck for him. This magic has worn off a while ago. Now, even though he appears to be blocking İmamoğlu’s path, he is actually clearing it. Erdoğan knows this.

Will he do this? Looking at it from today, it’s not easy to say “No.

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