Turkey’s largest opposition party – the People’s Republican Party (NRP) – last night elected 49-year-old Özgur Özel as its new chairman, ending the 13-year term of the previous leader Kemal Kulçdaroğlu, Reuters reported. The agency noted that this comes as Turkey prepares for important local elections in March 2024.
Since 2011, Yozel has been an MP, and since 2015, he has been the deputy chairman of the parliamentary group of the NRP. He announced his candidacy in September after Kulçdaroğlu and the NRP suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling political alliance in presidential and parliamentary elections in May.
Özel received 812 of 1,366 possible votes at a tense, hours-long party congress in Ankara, in two rounds of voting.
“This is the greatest honor for me in my life,” Yozel said after the results were announced and thanked Kulçdaroğlu for his work in the party. “We are taking the road to victory in the local elections,” he added.
“We believed in turning hopelessness into hope, we are full of hope,” said Yozel, surrounded by cheering party members, standing next to Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
After his election defeat, Kulçdaroğlu came under heavy criticism for his refusal to step down as the leader of the Turkish People’s Party, founded by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. During his 13 years at the helm of the party, it failed to surpass the historic ceiling of 25% support nationally.
“Until today, I carried the legacy of our great leader Atatürk with honor. And today, with the decision that the delegates of our congress made, I am saying goodbye to the post of chairman,” Kulçdaroğlu said on the “X” platform after the announcement of the results and congratulated Yozel.
Özel will now lead the NRP into local elections on March 31, where the party hopes to retain key municipalities won in 2019, including the capital Ankara, the largest city Istanbul and other major cities.
The new chairman of the NRP was elected at the two-day extraordinary party congress that started yesterday.
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