The Turkish president mobilizes his conservative base for Sunday’s crucial runoff

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The president of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğanvisited the grave of his political role model, a nationalist-Islamist hanged by a military government in 1961, this Saturday, with the aim of mobilizing his conservative base on the eve of a historic second round electoral.

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The visit to the mausoleum of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in Istanbul represents an important symbol for the 69-year-old head of state, a big favorite in Sunday’s presidential elections against the 74-year-old social democrat Kemal Kiliçdaroglu.

Menderes, an emblematic figure of Turkey’s conservative right, was tried and hanged a year after the military staged a coup in 1960 to steer Turkey in a more secular direction.

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Erdogan, who suffered a coup attempt in 2016, projects himself on Menderes and has mentioned him in his speeches.

“The time for coups is over: tomorrow will be a special day for all of us”, said the Turkish president, inviting his compatriots to go to the polls.

Two weeks ago, and despite the strain of 20 years in power, Erdogan denied the polls and prevailed over Kiliçdaroglu in the first round with 49.5% of the votes, and a difference of 2.5 million votes over his opponent , who got 45%.

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at an election event this Saturday in Istanbul.  Photo: REUTERS

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at an election event this Saturday in Istanbul. Photo: REUTERS

Since then, Kiliçdaroglu, who leads a motley coalition of six parties, has done everything to mobilize the electorate, including finding right-wing supporters.

His supporters took to the streets of major cities to grab votes, especially among the young electorate and housewives, who traditionally choose Erdogan.

Censorship or fake news?

But unlike the outgoing president, omnipresent on stage and on television, Kiliçdaroglu has had to fight to be heard across the country.

According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, public television TRT gave Erdogan “sixty times more airtime” than his rival during the campaign.

Kiliçdaroglu denounced again on Friday the blocking your text messages “by order of Erdogan” by the BSK, the telecommunications regulator.

The president’s side “trying by all means to stay in power,” he said, in an interview with the Fox network.

Opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu faces President Erdogan in this Sunday's runoff in Turkey.  Photo: REUTERS

Opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu faces President Erdogan in this Sunday’s runoff in Turkey. Photo: REUTERS

Erdogan instead accused “the Western media of trying, as usual, to manufacture fake news”.

Anyway, arithmetic favors the president outgoing after gaining the support of the third candidate who competed in the first round, Sinan Ogan, an ultra-nationalist who obtained 5.2% of the vote.

inflation and security

It is also to flatter this electorate that Erdogan decided, on the last day of the campaign, to visit the tomb of Mederes, the model of which inspired the conservative Islamist party AKP which accompanied his rise to power in the early 2000s.

Accused of ordering the anti-Greek pogroms in Istanbul in 1955, Mederes turned Islam into a political tool, restoring the call to prayer in Arabic and reopening thousands of closed mosques.

For Ahmet Karakoç, an 18-year-old voter interviewed in Istanbul, the main concern is security.

“The first thing is security. Tayyip has done so much for this country, I think he will win again,” he estimated.

Facing him, Kiliçdaroglu, an economist and former senior official, sought to instill calm in an inflation-ridden electorate.

“We want the country to return to peace, for the economy to recover. I think he would be a good leader. An economist would be good for our country,” said Ali Öksüz, 45.

expel refugees

However, Kiliçdaroglu has hardened his speech ahead of the second round and trying to take advantage of anti-Syrian sentiment in one part of the country, e promised to expel the 3.4 million refugees Syrians who are in Türkiye.

The leftist and pro-Kurdish formation HDP reiterated its unconditional support, despite Kiliçdaroglu’s pact with a small, reactionary and xenophobic party.

“There will be no third round! Kiliçdaroglu must be president, let Turkey breathe. Go to the polls!” Selahattin Demirtas, a top HDP leader who has been imprisoned since 2016, shouted on Twitter.

Polling stations will be open on Sunday from 8am to 5pm local time, with the first results expected first thing in the evening.

This time the CHP intends to deploy “five observers per ballot box, not one or two”, Kiliçdaroglu anticipated.

Source: AFP

Source: Clarin

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