Turkey’s main opposition elects Ozgur Ozel as new leader in run-up to local elections

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu attends a swearing-in ceremony at the Turkish parliament in Ankara

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu attends a swearing-in ceremony as he is accompanied by Ozgur Ozel at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 2, 2023. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/file photo Acquire Licensing Rights

ANKARA, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) late on Saturday elected Ozgur Ozel as its new leader, ending a 13-year term for incumbent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as the country gears for important local elections in March 2024.

Ozel, 49, has been serving as the CHP’s deputy parliamentary group chairman since 2015 and has been a lawmaker since 2011. He announced his candidacy in September, after Kilicdaroglu and the CHP’s painful defeat to President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling political alliance in May presidential and general elections.

Ozel received 812 of 1,366 possible votes at a tense, hours-long party congress in Ankara that took two rounds.

“This is the greatest honour of my life,” Ozel said after the results were announced, adding he thanked Kilicdaroglu for his work at the party. “We are embarking on the road for local election victory,” he added.

“We have believed in turning hopelessness into hope, we are hopeful,” Ozel said, surrounded by applauding party members and standing alongside Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.

Kilicdaroglu had come under fire since his election defeat for refusing to step down as the leader of the CHP, established by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Under his 13-year term, the CHP failed to surpass a historic ceiling of 25% nationwide support.

“I carried our Great Leader Ataturk’s legacy with honour until today,” Kilicdaroglu said on social messaging platform X after the results, and congratulated Ozel. “And today, with the decision our congress delegates made, I say goodbye to the post of chairman.”

Ozel will now lead the CHP into local elections on March 31, where the party hopes to keep hold of the key municipalities it won in 2019, including the capital Ankara, Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul, and other major cities.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Birsen Altayli; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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