Turkey’s main opposition party replaced its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on Sunday with Ozgur Ozil, a still inexperienced former pharmacist. This change in face comes in the wake of the electoral defeat suffered by the Republican People’s Party against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last May.
Change at the head of Turkey’s main opposition party. On Sunday, November 5, the Republican People’s Party (Social Democratic Party) replaced its leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, with Ozgur Ozil, a former pharmacist who is still inexperienced. The Republican People’s Party has been divided since Kemal Kilicdaroglu lost the controversial second round to the Turkish president in May.
At the party’s annual congress, delegates voted to replace Kemal Kilicdaroglu with the relatively unknown Ozgur Ozil after squandering what many see as the opposition’s best chance to end two decades of conservative Islamist rule by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The May elections took place amid a severe cost-of-living crisis, which analysts blamed on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unorthodox economic beliefs.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu succeeded in forming a multifaceted coalition that included right-wing nationalists, left-wing socialists, and Kurds. But the six-party bloc nearly disintegrated months before the election, and subsequently performed poorly in opinion polls.
For his part, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was able to consolidate his control over Parliament thanks to the support of Islamist and extreme nationalist groups.
“Reshaping Turkish Politics”
Kemal Kilicdaroglu then upset many within his party by refusing to admit defeat and resign.
The 74-year-old failed candidate in the recent presidential elections lost his leadership position after two heated rounds of voting at the party conference, in favor of a candidate supported by Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
Ozgur Ozil spent most of his career working as a pharmacist in the tourist city of Izmir (west), a stronghold of opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He later became President of the Pharmacists Association of Turkey, and was elected to Parliament in 2011.
The 49-year-old Speaker of Parliament won the final vote by 812 votes to 536, after presenting himself as the “Change” candidate. But the vote was more focused on the personalities of the two men than on specific policies.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu likened attempts to overthrow him to a “stab in the back,” while Ozgur Ozil stressed his desire to “write a new history and reshape Turkish politics.”
With Agence France-Presse
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”