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article imageErdogan's defeated rival challenges opposition leader

By AFP     Jul 3, 2018 in Politics

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's defeated rival in Turkey's presidential election said Tuesday he had offered to take over the day-to-day running of his opposition party, in an apparent challenge to its incumbent chief.

Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party (CHP) came second to Erdogan in the June 24 poll but surprised observers by running a hugely energetic campaign and winning over 30 percent of the vote, well above his party's average in recent years.

There have since been growing questions over the future of CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has been in charge since 2010 but never troubled Erdogan, with Ince supporters suggesting their man would be a better leader.

After a closed-door dinner with Kilicdaroglu on Monday, Ince said he had offered to take over the job of party chairman from Kilicdaroglu and create a new post of honorary leader for him.

"I offered him that if he (Kilicdaroglu) wants, I can call an extraordinary congress and I can be the chairman and he becomes the honorary leader," Ince told journalists in Ankara.

"If he says 'No', the organisation (CHP) will find a way itself."

Ince's comments highlighted strains within the CHP in the runup to the next key poll battle -- local elections scheduled for March 2019 where the opposition is hoping to take control of Istanbul and Ankara.

Ince, a charismatic and often noisy parliamentarian, had been picked by Kilicdaroglu as the CHP candidate to challenge Erdogan in the presidential election.

But Ince, who took off the CHP badge and promised to be "president of all", won a growing popularity in a short time, drawing mass crowds at giant rallies with charisma and rhetorical skills comparable to Erdogan.

After the election, he said he accepted the results which handed outright victory to Erdogan who polled 52.6 percent.

However, a frustrated Kilicdaroglu refused to congratulate the Turkish strongman and brushed off suggestions that he should resign while lashing out at those "clinging to their seats".

Ince is preparing for a marathon of nationwide rallies in all of Turkey's 81 provinces in what he termed as "thank you" gatherings to express his gratitude to Turkish people for their support.

But his meetings with the CHP's former chairmen Murat Karayalcin and Altan Oymen in the wake of the elections had already stoked speculation he wanted the top party job.

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