ANKARA (Reuters) – The leader of Turkey’s opposition Iyi (Good) Party, Meral Aksener, said on Sunday that she would step down from her post at an extraordinary party congress.
Aksener, a former interior minister and lawmaker from the nationalist MHP party, formed the Iyi Party last year after splitting from the MHP, which supports President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party.
Ahead of last month’s presidential and parliamentary elections, Aksener was seen as the most credible challenger to Erdogan, but was later overshadowed by Muharrem Ince, the main opposition’s candidate.
On Sunday, after a two-day gathering of party officials to evaluate the election results, Aksener called for an extraordinary congress at which Iyi would elect a new leader.
Aksener said she would not run for the party leadership at the congress.
“With the authority given to me by our party’s statutes, I have decided to call a congress with elections. I will not be a candidate at the congress. I wish success to my colleagues who will run,” Aksener tweeted.
The decision follows growing criticism towards Aksener within Iyi regarding her and the party’s performance at the polls.
On Saturday, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said it would be open to discussions with lawmakers who wanted to break away from the Iyi Party.
The MHP, allies with Erdogan’s AK Party, outstripped expectations on June 24 to win more than 11 percent of the vote, meaning the AK Party, which lost its sole majority in parliament after nearly 16 years, will now have to rely on its allies to pass legislation in the assembly.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won 22.65 percent of the vote, while the Iyi Party won 9.96 percent.
The Iyi Party, CHP and small Saadet Party formed a rival electoral alliance to that of the AK Party and MHP, but disbanded the alliance after the elections, saying it was no longer necessary.
Separately, Erdogan won sweeping powers under a new, powerful, executive presidency with 52.59 percent of votes, while Ince won 30.64 percent and Aksener 7.29 percent.
Under the new system, narrowly approved in a referendum last year, presidential candidates can no longer be lawmakers. Aksener, who is not a member of Turkey’s 600-seat assembly, will therefore leave active politics.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dale Hudson)