Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will face opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the second round of key presidential elections on Sunday.
Erdogan, who has ruled the country for more than 20 years, is the favorite to win another five years after he narrowly lost victory in the first election on May 14.
The incumbent president received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu got 44.8 percent in the first round. A third candidate, Sinan Ogan, who is an unknown figure to the Turkish public, won 5.2 percent with the support of an ultranationalist alliance.
However, in an unforeseen political disagreement, Ogan opted to support Erdogan in the runoff, while the ATA Alliance that backed him supported Kilicdaroglu after reaching an agreement.
The increase in nationalist votes in the first ballot and the nationalist nature of the third candidate and the alliance have had a significant effect on the electoral campaign during the two-week interval before the second round.
The electoral agenda has visibly shifted from Turkey’s crisis-hit economy and relief from the February earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people to issues like “terrorism” and the fate of refugees in the country.
Here’s a rundown of the two candidates’ policies, promises and rhetoric on key issues:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
- ‘Terror’: The president has consistently pursued sharp rhetoric against “terrorist” groups throughout the campaign period, keeping security issues high on the agenda in an apparent attempt to woo nationalist votes.
He has frequently claimed that his opponent is supported by “terrorist” groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a war since the 1980s for autonomy, and the Gulen movement, the former ally of Erdogan turned archenemy accused of a coup in 2016. try.
Throughout his campaign, Erdogan has said that his government will crush these groups.
“Our fight against all evil networks, including the separatist terrorist organization PKK and its extensions, will continue with determination,” he said in a public speech earlier in the week, adding that the PKK “could not move any further” in Turkey due to its efforts. .
- Refugees: Erdogan has vowed to return around a million Syrian refugees to their homeland after implementing housing projects in Turkish-controlled northern Syria, without giving a specific timetable.
He also said that improving dialogue between Syria and Turkey through Russia’s mediation efforts will help increase the “voluntary” return of refugees.
Erdogan has often accused the opposition of discriminating against refugees in the country, which, according to official figures, hosts 3.4 million refugees.
Kilicdaroglu “is trying to save the day with hate speech,” the president said in a recent interview.
- Economy: Erdogan has vowed to continue his unorthodox economic policies, including keeping interest rates low despite hyperinflation and the cost of living crisis.
He has said he aims to reduce the level of inflation to 20 percent in 2023 and below 10 percent in 2024, but added that his government will continue to cut interest rates.
“I have a thesis that interest rates and inflation are directly proportional,” he repeated after the May 14 polls. “The more you lower interest rates, the lower the inflation rate will be. My theory here is that interest is the cause, inflation is the effect.”
- earthquake relief: Erdogan has promised to provide earthquake survivors in southeastern Turkey with home loans with a 20-year maturity and a two-year grace period.
His government aims to build a total of 650,000 new flats in the region and has promised to deliver 319,000 of these in a year.
The Turkish president also announced that he will establish key defense industry production facilities in some of the quake-affected provinces.
- ‘Terror’: The presidential contender has made “terrorism” one of his main issues during the two-week break between votes.
He has made comments about how the Erdogan government and the Gulen organization were former allies, and Turkey and the PKK held talks with the president’s approval in the past.
On TV and on social media, he vowed to fight all “terrorists.”
“Terrorism will be fought, not negotiated. No political and legal agreement aimed at the unitary and national state structure of Turkey will be allowed,” said a May 24 protocol signed between Kilicdaroglu and the Victory Party, which led the nationalist ATA Alliance.
- Refugees: Kilicdaroglu has increased rhetoric against refugees after the first elections in an apparent attempt to attract nationalist votes.
The candidate promised to send the refugees in Turkey back to their homeland two years before the first elections through an agreement with the Syrian government. The Kilicdaroglu-Victory Party protocol reduced this to one year.
In a YouTube show broadcast earlier this week, he said that the repatriation process will be carried out through certain rules and that the European Union should finance it due to a refugee pact in place between the two parties.
“We will create the infrastructure for this process. We will guarantee the safety of your [refugees’] lives and properties to later send them,” he said.
- Economy: Kilicdaroglu has vowed to bring back conventional economic policies, including rational interest rates, to combat crippling hyperinflation in the country, frequently condemning Erdogan’s low interest rate policy.
The presidential candidate has said that he will work to attract foreign investment to Turkey while working to create a country that makes high-value products.
He claimed that he could attract up to $300 billion in investment from abroad, saying that investors only want democracy and trust in Turkey to invest.
Kilicdaroglu has said he will ban home sales to foreign nationals until Turkey’s real estate crisis, fueled by hyperinflation, earthquakes and other factors, is resolved for Turks.
- Earthquake Relief: The opposition leader has promised to provide free housing to earthquake survivors who lost their property in the disaster.
Kilicdaroglu has said his goal is to transform quake-hit provinces into a manufacturing base, adding that the materials needed to build new houses will be made in the region.
“Once the wounds are healed, this region will become one of the highest producing regions in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa,” he recently said.
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