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Turkey's main opposition party nominates MP Ince to challenge Erdogan

Adem Altan, AFP | Muharrem Ince addresses a Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) meeting on May 4 in Ankara.

Turkey's main opposition party nominated lawmaker Muharrem Ince (EEN-jeh) Friday to run against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming presidential election.

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Ince, of the secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, announced his candidacy at a party congress Friday. He said he would not only represent his party's supporters but all of Turkey's 80 million citizens. As a symbol for neutrality, Ince removed his CHP lapel pin to put on a Turkish flag pin.

"We will first establish justice. We will be impartial. We will be independent," Ince promised, accusing Erdogan of undermining democracy.

The CHP has been critical of Erdogan for "one-man rule," scrapping the customary impartiality of the presidency by returning to the helm of his party.

It has also slammed the government for committing a "civilian coup" through a massive crackdown following a failed 2016 coup attempt against the government. More than 50,000 people were arrested and some 110,000 dismissed from their public posts for alleged links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of masterminding the coup. Also behind bars are opposition lawmakers, journalists, activists and other dissenting voices.

As expected, the ruling party and its ally, the main nationalist party, applied to Turkey's electoral board Friday to officially nominate Erdogan as their presidential candidate.

Turkey's parliamentary and presidential elections, initially scheduled for November 2019, were moved up by more than a year to June 24. The opposition has been scrambling to put forward candidates and establish alliances.

Ince has been in parliament since 2002, representing his hometown of Yalova in western Turkey. The 54-year-old former physics teacher has been a fierce critic of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party.

Also in the running for the presidency is center-right Iyi Party leader Meral Aksener, a former interior minister who is considered a serious contender against Erdogan.

(AP)

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