Who is Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan's rival known as 'Turkey's Gandhi'?

By | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
May 15, 2023 11:16 PM IST

Kemal Kilicdaroglu is leader of the centre-left, pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP and is known as “Turkey's Gandhi”.

In the Turkish presidential election held on Sunday, no candidate secured the required 50% majority to win outright, according to Turkey's High Election Board (YSK), as reported by news agency Reuters. Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received 49.51% of the votes, while his main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu received 44.88% and the third candidate, Sinan Ogan, received 5.2%. Consequently, a second round of voting for the presidential election is scheduled for May 28.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu (C) the 74-year-old leader of the center-left, pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, arrives for a press conference in Ankara on May 15, 2023. (AFP)
Kemal Kilicdaroglu (C) the 74-year-old leader of the center-left, pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, arrives for a press conference in Ankara on May 15, 2023. (AFP)

Know about Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the centre-left, pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP who is known as “Turkey's Gandhi” and emerged as a prominent rival to long-standing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Also Read | Why all eyes are on the Turkey elections

Kemal Kilicdaroglu

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old former civil servant, is the candidate of the opposition parties forming a coalition against President Erdogan. He hails from the rebellious eastern Tunceli province, known for its Kurdish and Alevi majority. However, Kilicdaroglu faces challenges in winning over conservative Sunni voters, who form the core of Erdogan's support. If elected, he would be the first Alevi to lead Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu is often referred to as "Turkey's Gandhi" due to his mild manners and physical resemblance to Mahatma Gandhi. He is married to Selvi and has three children. Described to be “modest”, he once said, “We didn't have a fridge, washing machine or dishwasher.”

As the leader of the pro-secular main opposition party, Kilicdaroglu aimed to reverse crackdowns on free speech and address democratic setbacks. He also sought to revive the economy, which has been affected by high inflation and currency devaluation.

A defining moment for Kilicdaroglu was his "march for justice" in 2017, protesting the imprisonment of a member of parliament from his party. This march showcased his leadership qualities and willingness to confront Erdogan. Kilicdaroglu studied finance and previously headed Turkey's social security system. He also ran for Istanbul mayor in 2009.

(With inputs from agencies)

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