Former Turkish presidential candidate Ince to split from main opposition

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Muharrem Ince, then-presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), holds a news conference to assess election results in Ankara

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The former presidential candidate for Turkey's main opposition said on Monday he would resign from the party and form his own, further fragmenting the bloc standing against President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party.

Former lawmaker Muharrem Ince, 56, led the Republican People's Party (CHP) against Erdogan in 2018 elections in which he received nearly 31% of the vote, the highest of any opposition candidate for decades. He has also unsuccessfully run to lead the CHP several times but lost to Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

At a news conference, Ince said he was resigning over a lack of democracy within the CHP and disagreement over foreign policy in Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and Azerbaijan. The CHP - established by modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - had strayed from its principles, he said.

"The ruling party is happy with this opposition, and the opposition with this ruling party," Ince said, adding both should resign.

"They have split society into two camps (and) we are not happy with this polarisation. We are offering a third path for people." he said.

The CHP has in recent years formed an alliance with the centrist nationalist IYI Party and others, and cooperated with the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), to take on Erdogan's the AKP.

While they fell short in the 2018 parliamentary and presidential elections, the cooperation helped the CHP win mayoral votes in Istanbul and Ankara in 2019 for the first time in more than two decades.

Opinion polls show that around eight parties have at least 1% support in Turkey.

Ince dismissed criticism that his new party could split opposition votes on grounds it was not possible given that alliance blocs exist. He also rejected the possibility of joining the AKP's alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who together hold 337 of 600 seats in parliament.

Ince said three parliamentarians who resigned from the CHP last week would join him and that he would announce details about a new party soon.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mark Heinrich)