Turkey's Akşener says reports she is petitioning for presidential candidate ‘lies’

Meral Akşener, the leader of the opposition Good Party (IP), denied reports that she would collect signatures to nominate Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş as the candidate to face President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at presidential elections next June.

She characterised the reports as a “lynching”, Sözcü newspaper columnist Deniz Zeyrek reported on Friday citing an interview.

"Fake news. Look, I'm not even saying it's wrong, I'm saying it’s a lie," she said.

Political tensions among Turkey’s six-party opposition alliance, who have yet to agree on a joint presidential candidate, have been rising in recent days. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu repeated on Monday that he was ready to run against Erdoğan. He has effectively ruled out the option of Yavaş or Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu running, saying the candidate must have state experience. Both men are more popular among the public than either Kılıçdaroğlu or Akşener, opinion polls show.

Gürsel Tekin, a senior figure in the CHP, said in a television interview on Monday that a member of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) could be invited to become minister in a future government should the opposition alliance win the elections. All six parties are holding regular meetings and say they want to return Turkey to a parliamentary system of government abolished in 2018, but disagree on the involvement of the HDP.

The right-wing nationalist IP immediately responded to Tekin’s comments, rejecting the idea that the HDP could ever be awarded a ministerial post. Kılıçdaroğlu, himself a Kurd, then said Tekin had exceeded his authority by making such a proposal. The HDP said on Thursday that it would never sit down at the same table as the IP, according to Turkish media including Medyascope.

Akşener said there was also too much political noise being created by her visits to the offices of İmamoğlu, the CHP’s mayor of Istanbul. Yavaş also represents the CHP.

Akşener paid a visit to İmamoğlu this week. She said she visited İmamoğlu’s offices because she had not done so following his election in 2019. She said she would also be attending a ceremonial opening organised by İmamoğlu this week and will do the same for Yavaş in Ankara, who she also planned to visit.

The opposition has regularly accused Erdoğan's party and a partisan mainstream media of seeking to drum up divisions among its leadership, particularly in the run-up to elections.

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