Fri 26 May 2023 4:58 pm - Jerusalem Time
The end of a bitter campaign in Türkiye ahead of the second round of presidential elections
Turkey is preparing for an unprecedented second round of presidential elections on Sunday to choose its president, at the end of a bitter campaign full of promises made by the two candidates, whether against the Kurds or the Syrian refugees.
In this new confrontation, outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan starts with a five-point lead (49.5%) from the first round and 2.5 million votes over his rival, the candidate of a broad opposition coalition, Kamal Kilicdaroglu (Social-Democrat), who won 45%.
And the latest opinion polls - whose predictions were not confirmed in the first round - show that Erdogan is ahead of his opponent by five points, too, this time.
Despite this difference, which tends to favor the president who has ruled the country for twenty years, there remains an unknown element: 8.3 million voters did not cast their votes in the first round, although the turnout was 87%.
And the Turkish communities, which were able to vote until Tuesday evening, cast their votes in higher proportions, with 1.9 million tickets ahead of 1.69 million.
In addition to those who abstained from voting, the two parties have been trying since May 14 to win over the hard-line nationalists, whose candidate Sinan Ogan won 5% of the vote in the first round and came third, after he withdrew from the race and announced his support for Erdogan. But the weight of these parties weighed heavily on the campaign.
Kamal Kilicdaroglu (74 years), who was apparently surprised by the result of the first round that he did not expect, disappeared from the screens the day after May 14, in order to reappear on the fourth day and renew his campaign firmly.
Gone are the days of smiles and heart-drawings, which became a symbol of his electoral rallies, and were replaced by a resolutely raised fist to announce his intention to deport the Syrian refugees "the day after the victory."
A threat he repeated days later when he promised that Turkey would never again become a "migrant warehouse".
Since then, the candidate has softened his rhetoric towards the Syrians and demanded that Europe do its part, saying, "We are struggling with these problems to bring comfort to Europe. We will fix this matter, you will see."
Turkey, which receives at least 3.4 million Syrian refugees (according to official figures) and hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis, is the first host country in the world.
On the other hand, Erdogan, 69, armed with the results of the first round, intensified the electoral rallies to hold three gatherings a day at the end of last week. He denounced the "terrorists" of the rival camp because of the support provided to him by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and because of homosexuals and transgender people. who attack the core values of the family.
"Until yesterday, they loved terrorists," the Turkish president said Thursday, referring to the opposition.
"I've been following election campaigns for decades, and I've never seen so much 'misinformation', insulting statements and opposition to homosexuals," said Can Dundar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper (center-left), who lives in exile in Berlin. Because the opposition did not give an appropriate response or call for a minimum of respect."
For his part, Menderes Cinar, a professor of political science at Baskent University in Ankara, regretted that "the opposition is unable to present its vision for Turkey's future, based only on the failure of the government and the president."
"But even if voters do not agree with some of the coalition parties, they cannot afford the luxury of not voting," he said.
This was well received by the Peoples' Democratic Party. Despite the repeated attacks on it, and especially despite Kilicdaroglu's alliance with a small, xenophobic organization, the party renewed its call Thursday to vote for Kilicdaroglu.
One of the party's figures, Salahuddin Demirtas, imprisoned since 2016, renewed on Twitter Friday his appeal from his cell, saying, "There is no third round in this case! Let's make Kilicdaroglu president, and let Turkey breathe. Go to the polls and vote!"
For its part, the "Reporters Without Borders" organization denounced in a statement the lack of balance in the coverage, as the opposition faces difficulty in making its voice heard, while the head of state monopolizes all television screens.
Erol Onderoglu, RSF representative in Turkey, said, "The truth is that the current media system is misleading the elections by depriving Turkish citizens of a democratic process."