Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will face opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Sunday’s crucial presidential election runoff.
Erdogan, who has ruled the country for more than two decades, is on track to win another five years after narrowly missing victory in the first polls on May 14.
The incumbent president got 49.5% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu got 44.8% in the first round. A third candidate, Sinan Ogan, a figure unfamiliar to the Turkish public, has 5.2 percent support, backed by an ultra-nationalist coalition.
However, in an unforeseen political split, Ogun opted to back Erdogan in the runoff, while the ATA coalition that backed him shifted power to Kilidaroglu after a deal was reached.
The rise in nationalist votes in the first round and the nationalist nature of the third candidate and coalition had a major impact on the campaign in the two weeks leading up to the runoff.
The electoral agenda has apparently shifted from a crisis-hit economy and relief from a February earthquake that killed tens of thousands to topics such as “terrorism” and the fate of the country’s refugees.
Here’s a roundup of the two candidates’ policies, promises and rhetoric on key issues:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
- ‘fear’WASHINGTON: Throughout the campaign, the president has been making strident rhetoric against “terrorist” groups, keeping security issues high on the agenda, in an apparent attempt to woo nationalist votes.
He has often claimed that his opponents are backed by “terrorist” groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged war for autonomy since the 1980s, and Erdogan’s former ally Gülen Movement, accused of staging the 2016 coup. attempt.
Throughout his campaign, Erdogan has said his government will crush the groups.
“We will resolutely continue to fight against all evil networks, including the separatist terrorist organization PKK and its affiliates,” he said in a public speech earlier this week, adding that thanks to his efforts, Kurdish workers Party ‘can no longer act in Turkey’.
- refugee: Erdogan has promised to return about a million Syrian refugees after implementing a housing project in Turkish-controlled northern Syria, but gave no timetable.
He also said efforts to improve dialogue between Syria and Turkey through Russian mediation efforts would 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.
The president said in a recent interview that Kilidaroglu was “trying to salvage the situation with hate speech.”
- economy: Erdogan has pledged to continue his unorthodox economic policies, including keeping interest rates low amid hyperinflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
He has said he aims to bring inflation down to 20% in 2023 and below 10% in 2024, but added that his government will continue to cut interest rates.
“I have an argument that interest rates and inflation are proportional,” he repeated after the May 14 poll. “The lower the interest rate, the lower the inflation rate. My theory is that interest rates are the cause and inflation is the effect.”
- Earthquake Relief: Erdogan has promised to provide housing loans with a 20-year term and a two-year grace period to earthquake survivors in southeastern Turkey.
His government plans to build a total of 650,000 new apartments in the region and has committed to delivering 319,000 of them within a year.
The Turkish president also announced that he will build important defense industrial production facilities in some of the quake-hit provinces.
- ‘fear’: The presidential contender has made “terrorism” one of his top talking points during the two-week voting moratorium.
He has commented that Erdogan’s government and Gülen were once allies, and that Turkey and the PKK have held talks in the past with the president’s approval.
On TV and on social media, he promised to fight all “terrorists”.
“Terrorism will be fought, not negotiated. No political and legal arrangements against the Turkish state and unitary state structures will be allowed,” said the May 24 agreement between Kilicdaroglu and the Victory Party, which leads the nationalist ATA coalition.
- refugee: Kilicdaroglu added anti-refugee rhetoric after the first polls, in an apparent attempt to attract nationalist votes.
Through an agreement with the Syrian government, the candidate pledged to send refugees in Turkey back to their home country within two years of the first election. The Kilicdaroglu-Victory deal shortens that period to one year.
In a YouTube show that aired earlier this week, he said the repatriation process would be done according to certain rules and that the EU should fund it because there is currently a refugee agreement between the two parties.
“We will create the infrastructure for this process. We will ensure their safety [refugees’] life and property, and then sent,” he said.
- economy: Kilicdaroglu has pledged to return to conventional economic policies, including reasonable interest rates, to combat the country’s severe hyperinflation and has often condemned Erdogan’s low interest rate policy.
The presidential candidate said he would try to attract foreign investment to Turkey as he worked to create a country that manufactures high-value products.
He claimed he could attract as much as $300 billion in investment from abroad, saying investors only wanted to invest in Turkey’s democracy and confidence.
Kilicdaroglu said he would ban the sale of homes to foreign citizens until Turkey’s housing crisis, fueled by hyperinflation, earthquakes and other factors, is resolved for Turks.
- Earthquake Relief: Opposition leaders have pledged to provide free housing for earthquake survivors who lost property in the disaster.
Kilicdaroglu said his goal is to turn the quake-hit area into a manufacturing base, where materials needed to build new homes will be made.
“Once the wounds are healed, the region will become one of the biggest producers in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa,” he said recently.