Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu? campaign in the end. The president’s opponent has sharpened his rhetoric
Türkiye will elect its own president on Sunday. The campaign ahead of the second round went well for Erdogan. The candidate supported him with the third best result in the first round. The other candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has sharpened his tone. He promised to displace 3.5 million Syrian refugees to their country.
Continue the policy of 20 years, or risk turning to the pro-Western course? This is a question the Turks will answer in a couple of days. On Sunday – for the first time in the country’s history – the second round of the presidential elections will take place. Current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu will compete in it. On the first ballot, none of them managed to get more than 50 percent of the vote, although Ergodan came close. – Part of our people wants to live in a democratic country, empower women and fight corruption, but we also have the other part. Conservative, religious and nationalist voters. The first round of elections showed the difference between these groups, says Siddik Kapas, a Turkish journalist.
The obvious choice for conservative voters in Türkiye is the incumbent president. He has effectively modernized the infrastructure and arms industry, making the country an important player in the international arena. – Before Erdogan, when our presidents came to visit Europe or the United States, they stood there in fear, waiting for orders. One voter says they now stand evenly, head to head.
Erdogan’s opponents point out that all these years he has mainly focused on increasing his powers. He introduced reforms that changed the Turkish political system from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. His rule also led to a reduction in the independence of the judiciary and a series of crackdowns on free media. Among other things, by firing journalists who criticize him or controlling media unfavorable to him. Those in Turkey today are far from independent, which was criticized by foreign observers during the first round of elections. – The ruling parties have a continuing advantage resulting, among other things, from biased media coverage – believes Michael George Link of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
During the presidential campaign, Erdogan publicly attacked the LGBT community, which he likened to terrorists. “Just as we protect our youth from drug gangs and terrorist organizations, we consider it our duty to protect them from homosexuals as well,” Erdogan said.
…but can that change?
Erdogan’s opponent – Kemal Kilicdaroglu, around whom six opposition parties have gathered – is for many voters a hope for the revival of Turkish democracy. The 74-year-old promises to restore the parliamentary system and make the media and judiciary independent of the state. The politician, an accountant by education, known for his effective fight against corruption, also promised to return to a strict economic policy and reduce inflation, which currently stands at 43 percent in the country. “We are voting for Kilicdarogl to make a difference. Turkey needs it. For 21 years, we have seen nothing but war and prisoners,” said one Kilicdaroglu voter.
However, in the first round of the elections, the politician performed worse than the polls predicted, so today he sharpens his rhetoric and promises to resettle 3.5 million refugees from Syria to their country. According to research, such a movement is supported by more than 80 percent of Turks. “We will not leave our homeland to the people who allowed ten million illegal immigrants to come to this country,” Erdogan’s opponent said.
If the opposition alliance wins the next vote, it could struggle to push through its own reforms, however, as Erdogan’s party and its allies secured a majority in parliament two weeks ago. According to some analysts, the country’s future will now be decided by nearly 3 million voters from Sinan Ogan, who finished third in the first round. The politician decided to support the incumbent president. “I encourage all the voters who voted for us in the first round to support Mr. Erdogan,” Sinan Ogan said.
On the other hand, Kilicdaroglu’s statements of support come from the Kurdish minority, which makes up up to a fifth of Turkey’s 85 million population. “Erdogan is not an option for us, and the option we are betting on is the end of his rule,” said Pervin Buldan, co-chair of the HDP.
Experts assert that Erdogan’s victory in the international arena will bring Turkey closer to the authoritarian bloc led by Russia and China, and that Kilicdaroglu’s victory will improve relations with the West. According to opinion polls, Erdogan is the most likely candidate in this clash, although after the first round of elections the Turks do not consider it credible.
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Main image source: Reuters