Turkey election opposition dares to dream of Erdogan defeat

Turkey election: opposition dares to dream of Erdogan defeat – BBC

  • By Paul Kirby
  • BBC News, Ankara

May 13, 2023 05:04 BST

Updated 2 hours ago

Image source: Getty Images

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Supporters of the main competitor made his signature heart-shaped gesture at the rally

Turkey’s all-powerful President Erdogan is in the fight of his life against an opposition allied against him for Sunday’s elections.

His main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, appeared before a crowd of supporters on Friday, flanked by allies from across the political spectrum, who came together like never before.

As the rain pelted Ankara, he vowed to restore “peace and democracy”.

The man he wants voters to oust in 20 years – Recep Tayyip Erdogan – said he has kept Turkey going despite many challenges, including the economy, with its rampant inflation and February’s catastrophic twin earthquakes.

Both issues have dominated this feverish election campaign for both the presidency and parliament.

The 74-year-old opposition leader is often described as reticent, but he delivered a powerful speech to an audience who believe this is his best hope yet of regaining power from a president who has dramatically expanded his powers at the expense of Parliament.

Image Credit: Burak Kara/Getty Images

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On the eve of the vote, Mr. Kilicdaroglu visited the mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey, Ataturk

Mr Kilicdaroglu is slightly ahead in opinion polls and his supporters have dared to dream that he could win outright with more than 50% of the vote on Sunday rather than face a runoff two weeks later.

When asked on TV what he would do if he lost, President Erdogan said the question was absurd but that his government came to power democratically: “If our nation changes its mind, we will do exactly what they do.” Democracy demands.”

Firat, one of five million first-time voters, said he was pleased to see conservatives and nationalists appearing on the same platform as the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader.

Here was nationalist Meral Aksener, the only female leader in the six-man alliance, and there was Temel Karamollaoglu, who leads the pro-Islamist Felicity party.

Mr Kilicdaroglu’s party is secular at heart, but he has worked hard to reach out to women who wear the headscarf. The six parties have joined forces under the slogan Haydi (come on!) and a campaign song of the same name.

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Firat (right), along with his sister and mother, praised the unity of the opposition at the opposition rally

Tensions leading up to the vote were so high that he wore a bulletproof vest on stage in Ankara at his last rally and at another event before that.

The race has become as tense as it is crucial. One of the four presidential candidates, Muharrem Ince, withdrew Thursday, complaining that he had been targeted on social media with fake sex tapes that “manipulated the electorate.”

Mr Erdogan, who has contacts with Vladimir Putin, warned his rival: “If you attack Putin, I will not agree.”

The President delivered a speech on party allegiance in Istanbul, but the night before he was just outside the capital in a city of half a million that appeared to be fully supportive of his AK Party.

Orange, blue and white AKP flags flew in central Sincan while locals filled the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Mr Erdogan.

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The streets around the Erdogan rally in Sincan were packed with supporters

Supporters sang party songs while waiting for the President to appear on stage in a green jacket. A refrain rang out repeatedly: Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gaaaan.

“We built schools, universities and hospitals… we changed the face of our cities. We produced our own natural gas and oil,” Mr Erdogan told thousands of cheering supporters.

His strategy, first as prime minister, then as president, was to spur growth, often through expensive construction projects, visible in many major cities but not so obvious in Sincan.

Image Credit: APAImages/Shutterstock

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President Erdogan was greeted by a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in Sincan

Although his party still enjoys strong support, he relies on the support of the nationalist MHP and other smaller groups in his People’s Alliance.

His main support comes mostly from conservative or nationalist Turks, and he not only directs his rhetoric at the West, which he accuses of being against him, but also at the LGBT community.

“AK Party doesn’t let LGBT people into their neighborhoods and MHP doesn’t let them into the People’s Alliance because we believe in the sanctity of a family.”

These political alliances have become indispensable in Turkey’s political system as a party needs 7% of the nationwide vote to get into parliament, or be part of an alliance that does.

Whoever wins the presidency must have sufficient support in Parliament to support their plans.

During the Ankara election campaign, center-left candidate Aysun Palali Koktas said that while the economy and the aftermath of the earthquake were the two main issues of the election, the future of Turkey’s democracy and people’s rights were equally important.

“When we tweet, we don’t want to be afraid, and that’s especially true for young people,” she said.

But AK Party candidate Zehranur Aydemir, 25, believes young voters are treated very well by the government. “There are young people at all levels in our party.”

More than 64 million people at home and abroad are expected to vote on Sunday.

To achieve overall victory, a candidate must receive more than half of the votes.

If no candidate receives at least 50% plus one vote in the first ballot, the May 28 presidential election goes to a second ballot between the two who received the most votes.

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