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Erdogan visits opposition party headquarters first time in 18 years

Tuesday, 11 June, 2024 , 17:27

Istanbul, June 11, 2024 (AFP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the opposition CHP party headquarters on Tuesday, the first time in 18 years, after his party's dramatic defeat in the March local elections.

Erdogan last visited the party in 2006 when he was prime minister.

The one-and-a-half-hour meeting between Erdogan and CHP leader Ozgur Ozel in the capital Ankara comes more than a month after their first encounter in May.

As a result of the local elections, Ozel's CHP retained control of major cities including Istanbul and Ankara and expanded into some Anatolian provinces previously considered Erdogan territory.

Erdogan has signalled "softening" in politics after the March vote observers called his worst defeat since his Islamic-rooted AKP party took power in 2002.

Many blamed soaring inflation, currently at above 75 percent, and a crashing devaluation of the lira currency over the past year.

Erdogan has long called for a civilian constitution, saying the current one is a "product of the (1980) coup". But he needs the support of at least 37 opposition lawmakers to take a new charter to a referendum.

CHP's Ozel however remains cool toward a new charter. He has argued that it would be redundant, accusing the government of having failed to abide by the current document.

The recent removal of an elected mayor from his post in the Kurdish-majority southeast was expected to figure high on the agenda of the Erdogan-Ozel meeting.

Mehmet Siddik Akis served as mayor of the southeastern province of Hakkari for pro-Kurdish DEM party. The authorities accuse it of links to the outlawed PKK Kurdish militants, a charge it has denied.

A Turkish court earlier this month jailed Akis for terror-related crimes and he was replaced by a government-appointed local governor, prompting protests.

It was the first dismissal of a pro-Kurdish mayor since the March local elections, in which the DEM party won control of 77 municipalities across Turkey.

DEM is the third-largest political party in the parliament after Erdogan's ruling AKP and the main opposition CHP.

Ozel protested the removal of the elected mayor, calling for "respect in national will".