Ex-Turkish presidential contender forms new political party

“We are challenging both the government and the opposition. You will see we’ll be the second party in two months” said new part leader Muharrem Ince.

Wednesday 19/05/2021
Chairman and founder of the Turkish centre-left party Memleket (Homeland Party) Muharrem Ince delivers a speech in front of the party headquarters, in Ankara, on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
Chairman and founder of the Turkish centre-left party Memleket (Homeland Party) Muharrem Ince delivers a speech in front of the party headquarters, in Ankara, on May 18, 2021. (AFP)

ANKARA - A politician who once ran as a presidential challenger to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, formed the  new Memleket (Homeland) political party on Monday, which he has vowed will become the main opposition in parliament “in two months”.

Muharrem Ince, 56, who broke away in February from Turkey’s main CHP opposition party announced Monday: “ We are challenging both the government and the opposition. You will see we’ll be the second party in two months”.

For this to happen outside of an election would mean a mass defection from the CHP’s current 135 MPs as well as legislators from smaller parties. So far, four other legislators have quit the CHP to join Ince’s new party.

Ince was has been chosen as the Memleket chairman with former CHP party member Gaye Usluer as deputy chairman and party spokesman.

“We vow to take back our future. We promise as the Homeland Party to crown this country with democracy, freedoms and peace for the young people of this country and for everyone,” Usluer told journalists at the new party’s launch.

Ince ran as CHP’s candidate against Erdogan in Turkey’s 2018 presidential election, getting 31% of the votes behind Erdogan’s 53% support.

He had become a vocal critic of CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and made unsuccessful bids to replace him as party chairman. Last year Kilicdaroglu ruled out disciplining the outspoken Ince “for now”. When Ince quit CHP earlier this year, he cited policy differences.

Ince has said that there is no chance of his party backing the nationalist political alliance that is led by Erdogan’s ruling party. The CHP is part of the rival Nation Alliance with the centre-right Iyi Partisi (Good Party) and other smaller parties.

Iyi i has been having troubles of its own with Umit Ozdah a long-time bitter critic of party chairman Meral Aksener resigning to form his own new political party.

Though the resignations of both Ince and Ozdah have attracted considerable media attention, there seems little confidence that they can make much of an impression politically. Indeed their dissident line could be seen as a reflection of the frustration among opposition parties to make much of a dent, outside of the three big cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, in the support for Erdogan’s AK Party.  The next general election is due to be held on or before June 2023.

The CHP chairman Kilicdaroglu has dismissed the new parties as “political engineering” designed to undermine the Nation alliance of opposition parties and he suggested that Erdogan’s governing Ak party was behind the breakaways.