After failing to seize the opportunity to defeat Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in elections, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu faces questions about his leadership and the challenge of preserving an opposition alliance ahead of local elections in March 2024.

Some party members, analysts and voters say Kılıçdaroğlu, the opposition presidential candidate in Sunday’s runoff, needs to immediately refocus on maintaining control of Türkiye’s major cities in the municipal elections.

However, after losing to Erdoğan, whose position in opinion polls had been weakened by the cost of living crisis, many members and supporters of the opposition are frustrated and reconsidering and considering leadership changes.

Kılıçdaroğlu received 47.8% of the vote in the run-off despite an optimistic and inclusive campaign in which he pledged to rein in Erdoğan’s unorthodox economic policies.

However, Erdoğan, who has ruled Türkiye for the longest period in modern times, will extend his authoritarian rule into a third decade with the support of his coalition, which constitutes a majority in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) is holding internal discussions this week in Ankara to regroup.

The opposition alliance of six parties met after the election results came out on Sunday.

Akif Hamza Cebe, former deputy head of a parliamentary group for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), wrote on Twitter that his party and Kılıçdaroğlu had failed miserably due to a futile strategy, and a comprehensive reassessment was needed.

“If the necessary measures aren’t taken, the future will be worse than it is today,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, has been seeking for a long time the opportunity to be chosen as the man facing Erdoğan, 69, in the elections.

The opposition alliance, which included nationalists, Islamists, secularists and liberals, chose him as a candidate in March to run in the presidential elections, although some members warned at the time that he wasn’t the strongest option based on opinion polls.

His selection came after a dramatic weekend in which Meral Akşener, leader of Türkiye’s second largest opposition party, Meral Akşener, withdrew in protest.

During the campaign, Kılıçdaroğlu won the endorsement of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), leading most of those polled to expect him to win the first round of the May 14 elections and begin to undo Erdoğan’s legacy.

He ultimately fell short of winning the May 28 runoff, and in the past two weeks, he has struggled to galvanize voters in the face of an overwhelmingly pro-government mainstream media and Erdoğan’s strong support base across rural Anatolia.

In a speech on Sunday night, Kılıçdaroğlu called the election “the most unfair election in years, but he showed no sign of giving up and added that he would continue to lead and fight for democracy.

Analysts say Kılıçdaroğlu will now seek to keep this unwieldy coalition united, including with support for the HDP, until municipal elections in March.

In the last municipal elections in 2019, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a shock when CHP candidates won mayoralties in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and Adana.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said on Monday “The struggle has started again”.

İmamoğlu, who belongs to the Republican People’s Party, was Akşener favorite as a better presidential candidate than Kılıçdaroğlu.

“We’ll no longer expect different results by doing the same things… From now on, we will continue to fight to win all support”.

An internal debate is likely to take place in the Republican People’s Party, the party of modern Türkiye’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, ahead of the party congress scheduled for this summer.

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