Turkey's opposition coalition named Kemal Kilicdaroglu as its candidate to challenge incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May's election. Photo by Necati Savas/EPA-EFE
March 7 (UPI) -- A coalition of opposition parties in Turkey has chosen Kemal Kilicdaroglu to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the country's upcoming election in May in what is being viewed as its most competitive in years.
The six opposition parties made the announcement of Kilicdaroglu on Monday, saying after a meeting at the Turkish capital of Ankara that the coalition would "run the country in consultation and agreement with one another" if he is elected.
The coalition also immediately released a 12-point agreement, outlining its plan to transition the country from a presidential system to a parliamentary one as soon as possible if he is elected.
Kilicdaroglu also said the leaders of the five other opposition parties would be designated as vice presidential candidates.
"Our table is the table of peace and brotherhood," he said.
Kilicdaroglu, a 74-year-old economist, is the longtime leader of Turkey's Republican People's Party and has faced concerns that he lacks the ability to energize and galvanize voters against Erdogan. He has also been credited for the party's recent gains in the Turkish legislature.
Erdogan has gone without a serious challenger since rising to power in 2003 but criticism over his government's handling of a devastating earthquake last month has appeared to make him vulnerable.
While the Turkish president weathers complaints at home, he has been frowned upon internationally for his efforts to block Finland and Sweden from becoming a member of NATO at a time when Russia has continued its invasion of Ukraine and countries outside the alliance remain fearful.
Erdogan has tried to respond to domestic criticism about the earthquake response by arresting contractors of homes that collapsed during the incident, suggesting they did not meet required codes. He has also promised the government's help in building hundreds of homes to assist displaced families.