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Leader of Turkey’s secular and center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu (pronounced Ke-lich-dar-ou-loo) is widely seen as everything President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not.
A lawmaker representing the CHP since 2002 – the same year that saw Erdogan’s AK Party rise to power – Kilicdaroglu, 74, climbed up the political ladder to become his party’s seventh chairman in 2010.
Born in the eastern, Kurdish-majority province of Tunceli, the party leader ran in Turkey’s 2011 general election but lost, coming second to Erdogan and his AK Party.
Kilicdaroglu represents the party formed 100 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey and a die-hard secularist. He stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party and its conservative base.
Despite his secular leanings, however, the opposition candidate and his alliance have vowed to represent all factions of Turkish society, which analysts say was demonstrated in his diverse coalition.
Sometimes referred to as “Ghandhi Kemal” for both his physical resemblance to India’s Mahatma Ghandhi as well as his humble decorum, Kilicdaroglu is seen as Erdogan’s polar opposite, analysts say.
While both Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan hail from humble socio-economic backgrounds, “they evolved to be completely different creatures,” says Murat Somer, a political science professor at Koc University in Istanbul.
Symbolically, “Erdogan is the shopkeeper, Kilicdaroglu is the bureaucrat,” said Somer, referring to Erdogan’s businessman-like approach, as opposed to that of Kilicdaroglu, who Somer says is more committed to procedure.
“Kilicdaroglu will try to fight corruption and also bring past corruptions to justice,” he said.
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