Kilicdaroglu says election defeat "not heavy," dodges questions about rerunning for leadership
The leader of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) appeared before the public on Friday evening in a live broadcast for the first time since the night of the presidential runoff in Turkey on 28 May.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as the opposition's joint presidential candidate, lost in the runoff against Recep Tayyip Erdogan by a margin of four points, despite serious economic woes Turkey has been facing since 2018.
Responding to questions of journalists in a broadcast of Sozcu TV, Kilicdaroglu remarked that their defeat "was not a heavy one," and that they still managed to secure 48% of the vote "despite negative circumstances."
In a rather simple explanation of the defeat, Kilicdaroglu said they lost because of the three million more votes Erdogan received in polling stations with three or less then three ballot boxes, namely rural areas. He proudly said that he received 51% of the vote across the entire country in stations with more than three boxes.
He also stated that CHP's ballot attendants were present in almost all stations, confirming that the election results were fair.
Asked by journalist Ismail Saymaz why he thinks they lost the elections, Kilicdaroglu looked surprised and said that he has just explained why. "We lost because of the three million more votes the rival candidate received in small settlements," he repeated.
Saymaz pressed on:
"You were unable to defeat the government at a time when it was most vulnerable. The economy was in shambles. The earthquake had devastated provinces. Don't you think the situation calls for a more comprehensive analysis?"
"The support for the Justice and Development Party dropped from 42% to 36%. Isn't that a loss?"
"I don't like making excuses, but Erdogan raised the minimum wage only after I demanded a higher minimum wage, didn't he? I was the one who first visited the earthquake zone, I was the one who publicly told what the survivors needed, but the people there voted in favor of Erdogan. We should question ourselves. There are more than just one reason. And by the way, they handed out money to people in huge amounts."
He was asked again:
"You couldn't defeat the government even at a time like this, so when do you think you will be able to win?"
"We've raised the bar," he answered. "We brought together parties who were earlier unable to come together. Those who take over the flag now will raise it higher."
"Who will take over the flag?" he was asked.
"It would be a mistake to think of that in a personal context," Kilicdaroglu dodged.
He dodged again when he was asked if he would run for another term for leadership at the party's approaching congress.
"Our party has a corporate identity," he said. "Our first priority is the country. Then comes the party, and the leadership follows. You constantly mention about change. Is there a single thing in life that is not subject to change? We recently changed several members of the party's central executive council. Then we reached a decision to hold the party congress."
Asked again if he would run in the congress, Kilicdaroglu said. "I will not say I'll be a candidate. The authorized councils of our party will decide on that."