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Turkey elections: Kilicdaroglu overhauls campaign team after first round loss

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu set to assume a more prominent role in shaping Kilicdaroglu's new electoral strategy, sources say
Turkey's Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman and Presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu delivers a speech in Ankara on 12 May 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey's opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has revamped his campaign team following his first round loss against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Sources told Middle East Eye on Tuesday that Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is set to assume a more prominent role in shaping Kilicdaroglu's new electoral strategy.

The decision comes after Erdogan secured 49.5 percent of the votes in the presidential race, well ahead of Kilicdaroglu who managed 44.9 percent, according to Turkey’s election authority.

A runoff election is scheduled for 28 May.

Kilicdaroglu took decisive action following the election, beginning with the dismissal of Onursal Adiguzel, the deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), who led the elections and propaganda team responsible for monitoring the vote. 

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Reports suggest that there was confusion within the party on election night which infuriated Kilicdaroglu.

Kilicdaroglu also opted not to renew the contract with the company that managed his election campaign, headed by Ali Kiremitcioglu and Akan Abdulla.

"The party's contract with the company ended. Since we couldn't secure victory in the first round, we decided not to extend it," a source told Middle East Eye. 

Later in the day, another surprising twist occurred as Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a prominent politician who wields influence within the party, emerged to lead Kilicdaroglu's campaign. 

Imamoglu achieved notable success in 2019 when he ran a successful campaign against Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), ultimately capturing the city and ending decades of right-wing control.

Canan Kaftancioglu, the chairman of the CHP branch in Istanbul, is also expected to play a more influential role in the upcoming round, according to sources.

"His team of advisers are settling in at the headquarters as we speak," another source told MEE. 

Lacking a runoff strategy

Imamoglu, according to the source, will use his consultants that currently work at Istanbul Planning Agency, a subsidiary of Istanbul Municipality, that is led by Emrah Sahan and his adviser Gokhan Gunaydin. 

Meanwhile, two sources familiar with recent developments revealed that the CHP had not formulated a well-defined strategy for the runoff election and is now in the process of finalising a roadmap. 

Turkey elections: Erdogan in a strong position ahead of presidential runoff
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Erdogan, on the other hand, has already instructed the newly elected members of parliament to remain in their respective electoral districts and continue campaigning until the runoff.

The sources suggested that Kilicdaroglu intends to launch a more intense campaign, specifically targeting 5.2 million first-time voters and young voters.

In a message directed at young voters, Kilicdaroglu said on Twitter: "Those who want change outnumber those who don't in our country. You don't even have enough money for basic necessities, including buying a cup of coffee. Your joy of life has been stolen. Yet, youth should be carefree. They haven't let you experience this even for a day. While we argue, they stand united against you."

Later on Tuesday, Kilicdaroglu appointed Mehmet Ali Yuksel, a CHP official representing Istanbul's impoverished Kagithane district, as his adviser for elections and electoral propaganda.

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