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Turkey's opposition picks new head
Kilicdaroglu takes charge of CHP, pledging to take it to power with focus on social issues.
Last Modified: 23 May 2010 10:21 GMT
Kilicdaroglu has a little over a year to improve his party's chances of defeating the ruling AKP [AFP]

Turkey's main opposition party has elected its new leader, after the former chairman resigned this month over a sex scandal.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu stood unopposed for the leadership of the pro-secular Republican People's Party (CHP), and will challenge Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, in elections due next year.

"We will rebuild Turkey; we will improve democracy with rule of law," Kilicdaroglu, 61, told delegates at the CHP's meeting on Sunday in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

As head of the opposition, he pledged to take the CHP into power and to fight poverty, unemployment and corruption.

After being formally elected party leader, Kilicdaroglu said: "We will introduce a political ethics law. Racketeers, pillagers and swindlers have no place in parliament."

The CHP has struggled in offering itself as an alternative to the Islamic-oriented ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), often appearing to be authoritarian and out of step with its social-democratic grass-roots.

Political scandal

The CHP suffered a blow earlier this month when a secretly taped video apppeared on the internet purportedly showing Deniz Baykal,its chairman, in an intimate encounter with a female legislator who used to be his aide.

Baykal stepped down soon after the sex scandal erupted.

Kilicdaroglu, a former head of Turkey's social security agency, led an association dedicated to fighting state corruption before winning a parliament seat in 2002.

He has since exposed documents alleging corruption that forced the resignation of two senior figures from the AKP.

The CHP is Turkey's oldest political party, having been founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the architect of modern Turkey, in 1923.

It lost the 2007 general elections to the AKP, which the CHP accuses of trying to undo the country's secular system by mixing Islam with politics.

Source:
Agencies
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