Özgür Özel elected as new leader of main opposition CHP

Özel beat CHP's longstanding leader Kılıçdaroğlu who failed to unseat incumbent President Erdoğan in May's presidential election

Özgür Özel casts his vote for the Party Assembly and High Discipline Committee elections on October 6, 2023.

Özgür Özel dethroned Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during the Sunday elections held for determining the new chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Following the presidential elections held in May which resulted in Kılıçdaroğlu’s failure against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, CHP witnessed internal debates over the 74-year-old politician’s leadership.

A group of self-identified “reformists” inside the party led by Özel emerged victorious against Kılıçdaroğlu. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu was also known to be in favor of removing Kılıçdaroğlu from the post.

Özel, a pharmacist by trade, received 812 of 1,366 possible votes at a tense, hours-long party congress in the capital Ankara that took two rounds.

“We will not stop; we will keep working,” Özel said during his vote of thanks. “We will focus on the upcoming local elections that will be held after five months.”

Özel, expressing their commitment to work with a mobilization spirit, stated, “We will work shoulder to shoulder, regain all the municipalities we currently hold, add new ones to them, and together, we will achieve a great victory. I believe in this.”

Kılıçdaroğlu congratulated Özel

Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu congratulated Özel, once known as his ally, on his victory. “I congratulate newly elected Özgür Özel on assuming the position of the party’s leadership, and I wish him success.”

The politician stated he bid farewell to the position of leader by the decision made by the CHP’s delegates.

“I extend my gratitude to everyone who has supported our struggle until today,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.

After winning the 2019 municipal elections in Istanbul, Imamoğlu was seen as a potential new leader for the party and challenger for the presidency.

However, Kılıçdaroğlu chose to run himself against Erdoğan in the May elections despite several previous losses. After the vote, he came under fire for refusing to step down as the leader of the CHP, established by modern Türkiye’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Özel 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, Türkiye’s biggest city Istanbul, and other major cities.

Breaking News Turkey with agencies

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