1683905920 Turkey Three days before the presidential election an opponent of

Turkey: Three days before the presidential election, an opponent of Erdogan throws in the towel

Muharrem Ince, one of the four candidates running in Turkey’s May 14 presidential election, announced Thursday the withdrawal of his candidacy, a decision that boosts the chances of Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main opponent.

“I withdraw my candidacy,” the leader of the Memleket (Fatherland) party, who was credited with two to four percent of voting intentions in the latest opinion polls, said during a news conference.

He was the target of an online smear campaign, carried out in particular with the help of deepfakes showing fake photos of him in the company of women or driving luxury cars.

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu accused Russia of being behind this campaign on Thursday evening.

“Dear Russian friends,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu wrote on Twitter, “You are behind the montages, conspiracies, fakes and recordings that were uncovered in this country yesterday (…) If you want our friendship after May 15th, touch not that.” Turkish state.

Several leaders of Mr Ince’s party have resigned in recent days over fears that his candidacy will prevent Mr Kiliçdaroglu, who heads a coalition of six opposition parties, from campaigning against President Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003 win.

Mr Ince justified his decision by saying that the opposition coalition would put “all the blame” on him in the event of a defeat. “I don’t want them to have any excuses,” he said.

Muharrem Ince, whose portrait will appear on Sunday’s ballot papers, was the unsuccessful Republican People’s Party (CHP, Social Democrat) presidential candidate in 2018, beaten in the first round by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In May 2021 he formed his own secular nationalist formation.

Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the CHP, gets a good position vis-à-vis President Erdogan, who is facing a unified opposition for the first time in two decades.

The latest opinion poll published on Thursday by the renowned Konda Institute gave Mr. Kiliçdaroglu 49.3% of the voting intentions in the first round, compared to 43.7% for Mr. Erdogan and 2.2% for Muharrem Ince.

Almost 50% of Muharrem Ince’s supporters will vote for Mr Kiliçdaroglu, while less than a quarter will vote for President Erdogan, according to a poll conducted on May 9-10 by the Metropoll Institute.

“My objection stands. Let’s put old grudges aside,” Kiliçdaroglu tweeted on Thursday, urging Muharrem Ince to join his coalition.

“His withdrawal is incomprehensible. Honestly, I’m sad,” said Erdogan, for his part, during a rally in Ankara province.

“Let’s move on (…) What counts is the decision of my people,” added the 69-year-old leader, who faces his most uncertain election since taking office at the head of the country on Sunday.

Mr Erdogan, whose popularity has been sapped by Turkey’s economic crisis, vowed on Thursday to double civil servants’ salaries after initially promising a 45% increase on Tuesday.

Opposite him, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, a 74-year-old former senior official, promises a return to the democratic game and a direct fight against inflation, which still tops 40% in Turkey.

In addition to the support of his coalition, the candidate garnered the support of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the country’s main pro-Kurdish party and the country’s third political force.

In the conservative city of Sivas (centre) on Thursday, Mr Kiliçdaroglu vowed to protect the rights of all Turks.

At the same time, the country’s 64.1 million voters will renew their parliament on Sunday, in which President Erdogan and his allies have a majority.

According to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Committee, almost 1.7 million Turks from abroad have already voted.

“We achieved a record participation abroad compared to previous elections,” said Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasin Ekrem Serim.

Five years ago, Turks abroad, who make up around 5% of the electorate, voted almost 60% for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compared to 52.6% for all Turks.