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Turkish voters prepare to renew Erdogan’s mandate

Turkish voters prepare to renew Erdogan's mandate

As the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic, established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, voters are readying to decide on whether to give incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan another five years in office in Sunday’s presidential run-off.

On May 14, Erdogan’s People’s Allaince secured a comfortable majority in parliament and Erdogan himself received 49.5 per cent of the total vote in the presidential race.

He now aims to cement his rule for another five years by beating his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the opposition’s joint champion, in the seond round.

“No complacency, no euphoria of victory! The ballot box is indispensable and, with God’s permission, we will march to victory,” Erdogan told a rally in Ankara on Wednesday, pledging to increase his vote in the second round.

Kilicdaroglu, who won 44.8 per cent of the vote in the first round, leaving his supporters disappointed, said Turkey’s first-ever presidential run-off is a referendum on the country’s future.

“[Sunday’s vote] is the last chance to get your youth back. This is a … referendum for you,” Kilicdaroglu said in a campaign video on Wednesday, urging the young to go to the polls.

Bucking the election polls, Kilicdaroglu and his Nation Alliance ended the first round of presidential elections and general elections on May 14 behind Erdogan and his alliance.

The surprising result left the opposition in despair and its leaders disappeared from the media for days until Kilicdaroglu came back with a new more nationalistic and anti-migration discourse, clearly recognising the importance of nationalist votes.

The ultra-nationalist and anti-migrant ATA Alliance and its presidential candidate Sinan Ogan received a surprising 2.43 per cent and 5.17 per cent of total votes respectively on May 14.

However, Ogan and his political allies parted ways after May 14, due to a disagreement on which candidate they should support in the second round. Ogan himself is supporting Erdogan in the second round.

The parties in the ATA Alliance, meanwhile, have pledged support for Kilicdaroglu. The largest party, the Victory Party, led by Umit Ozdag, signed a protocol with Kilicdaroglu. In return for its support, he has promised to send all refugees and fugitives back to their countries of origin within a year.

The protocol also agreed an active fight against terrorist organisations and the appointment of trustee mayors if local administrators’ “ties with terrorism” are “proven by legal evidence”.

The move aims to replace mayors and other local administrators with alleged ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK.

Erdogan’s government already suspended many mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in eastern and southeastern Turkey due to alleged ties with the PKK.

The HDP and most Kurdish voters supported Kilicdaroglu in the first round.

Experts doubt Kilicdaroglu’s abrupt change of focus will bring him victory, and the turnout may be low in eastern and southeastern Turkey, which is mainly populated by ethnic Kurds.

More than 60 million Turkish citizens are eligible to vote on Sunday in 87 election districts and Turkey’s large diaspora equalled to 3.5 million voters have already finished voting in diplomatic missions on May 24.

Source: Balkan Insight