Pharmacist with no political experience elected as the President of the Republican People’s Party

Özgür Özel won in the final vote at the conference of Turkey’s largest opposition party, securing a majority with 812 votes against 536 for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He presented himself as the candidate of “change,” but the vote focused more on the personalities of the two men rather than specific policies.

Members of the main opposition party in Turkey elected a new president today, Sunday, Özgür Özel, a relatively unknown pharmacist, replacing their former leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who suffered a bitter electoral defeat against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Delegates voted in favor of replacing Kılıçdaroğlu with Özgür Özel during the party’s annual conference. Özil, a pharmacist with limited political experience, was supported by Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, after what many considered the best opportunity for the opposition to end two decades of rule by Erdoğan’s conservative Islamic system.

The elections took place last May amidst a severe crisis, particularly characterized by rising living costs, which analysts blamed on Erdoğan‘s economic policies.

Since their electoral defeat in May, the Turkish opposition has been marked by divisions and disputes. This led to the replacement of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, the largest opposition party.

Kılıçdaroğlu managed to form a diverse alliance consisting of right-wing nationalists, left-wing socialists, and Kurds, but he faced internal dissent within the six-party opposition alliance just before the presidential and legislative elections. Meral Akşener, the leader of the Good Party, had reservations about Kılıçdaroğlu‘s candidacy in the presidential race.

After the elections, Kılıçdaroğlu‘s refusal to acknowledge defeat and resign caused dissatisfaction among many in his party. Following two heated rounds of voting at the party’s conference, the 74-year-old Kılıçdaroğlu lost his leadership position to the candidate Özgür Özel, who is supported by Istanbul’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu.

Özel spent most of his professional life working as a pharmacist in the tourist city of Izmir in western Turkey, which is a stronghold of opposition to Erdoğan. He later became the president of the Pharmacists’ Association in Turkey and was elected as a member of parliament in 2011.

Özel, who is 49 years old, won the final vote at the party conference, securing a majority with 812 votes against 536. He presented himself as the candidate of “change,” although the vote focused more on the personalities of the two men than on specific policies.

Kılıçdaroğlu considered the attempts to remove him as a “stab in the back,” while Özel expressed his desire to “write a new history and reshape Turkish politics.”

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