Turkiye Erdogan gathers his base ahead of Sundays crucial vote

Türkiye: Erdogan gathers his base ahead of Sunday’s crucial vote

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallies his unconditional supporters on Friday, two days ahead of what promises to be his most difficult presidential election after two decades in power.

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In a historically conservative district of Istanbul, the head of state, a child of the city, first addressed his constituents in the afternoon before inaugurating a mosque, one after the thousands already erected during his rule.

During the rally, he warned of a “heavy price” to be paid for victory for the opposition, a six-party coalition he accused of being “driven by vengeance”.

His main rival Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, President of the Republican People’s Party (CHP, Social Democrats) and leader of the opposition, gives the polls a slight lead for Sunday’s presidential election.

Observers believe Thursday’s departure of one of the four candidates, Muharrem Ince, is likely to be in his favour. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the votes, the first two will face off in a second ballot on May 28.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose popularity has been weakened by the economic crisis in the country of 85 million people, was unusually cautious about the results on Thursday evening.

“The polls will tell us on Sunday,” he replied to a journalist who asked him about his possible win.

Mr Erdogan, 69, also admitted he was struggling to convince young people, 5.2 million of whom will be voting for the first time, and who are dreading the 1990s and, he says, the chaos and corruption that characterized coalition governments. have not experienced.

“There is a generation in our country that has not experienced the sorrows that we have suffered,” he summarized during an intervention this week.

“It is difficult for us to explain our values ​​to this new generation. Because our youth cannot be compared with old Turkey, but with countries that have much better conditions,” he said on Friday.

With that, the Turkish president admitted that he might not win the votes of a young electorate striving for a better life.

In recent years, Mr Erdogan has lost the support of key segments of the population who championed his cause at the start of his tenure in 2003, which was marked by a more prosperous Turkey.

According to surveys, more than half of young people prefer to vote for their rival.

As for the Kurds, who in his early years praised his efforts towards democratization, they now overwhelmingly support Kemal Kiliçdaroglu.

The deep economic crisis – the worst in Turkey in a quarter-century and attributed by many observers to Erdogan’s unorthodox economic beliefs – has also eroded confidence in his government from other groups.

It is therefore crucial today for the head of the Islamic conservative state to rally his most unconditional nationalist and religious supporters so that they do not take part in the election.

Observers say the democratic future of NATO’s largest Muslim-majority country is at stake on Sunday.

“Either Erdogan will lose and give Turkey a chance to restore democracy, or he will win and likely remain in power for the rest of his life,” said Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

Faced with dissatisfaction from a section of society, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu built his campaign on positive messages, dodging Mr Erdogan’s personal attacks to focus on promises to restore economic order and freedoms.

He has also surrounded himself with economists trusted by Western investors and former allies of Mr Erdogan to also appeal to a nationalist and conservative constituency.

Mr Kiliçdaroglu on Thursday also denounced Russia’s electoral interference – an accusation the Kremlin “firmly” denied on Friday.

The opposition leader also identified a return to a parliamentary system as a priority to close the chapter on a presidency that has become omnipotent since the 2017 constitutional amendment.

This would force the opposition to win the general election also taking place on Sunday. However, the polls on this point give Erdogan’s conservative alliance a head start over the opposition bloc.

However, thanks to the support of an alliance of the main pro-Kurdish party and left-wing parties, the opposition could still hold a majority in parliament.