Opposition march in Turkey Yasin Akgul/Getty Images

Turkey’s Emboldened Opposition

The culmination of a three-week-long protest march, from Ankara to Istanbul, has heightened expectations that a viable opposition is emerging in Turkey’s constrained political environment. But with a popular if polarizing president still at the helm, opponents of strongman rule still have a long road ahead.

ISTANBUL – In Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has been working to centralize political power, opposition parties have lately had few reasons to be optimistic. This month’s massive rally in Istanbul was a rare exception.

On July 9, after walking for 25 days from the capital, Ankara, Turkey’s main opposition leader, Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, urged supporters to resist the decline in democratic freedoms. “We will be breaking down the walls of fear,” Kiliçdaroğlu told a crowd of hundreds of thousands. “The last day of our justice march is a new beginning, a new step.” The question now is whether Turkey’s divided political opposition can move beyond rhetoric, and mount a meaningful, unified challenge to Erdoğan’s political hegemony.

The party that Kiliçdaroğlu leads, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), commands a high level of support from Turks frustrated by Erdoğan’s majority rule. But in Turkey’s constrained political environment, and with a popular if polarizing president still at the helm, opposition leaders will face a difficult struggle to maintain the momentum they have established.