Presidential election in Turkey: seducing nationalists, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu's risky gamble

D-2 before the second round of Sunday's presidential election in Turkey. Outgoing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the big favorite. His rival Kemal Kiliçdaroglu tried during the campaign between the two rounds to seduce the most nationalist voters. This strategy involves risks, especially vis-à-vis Kemal Kiliçdaroglu's Kurdish voters.

Victory Party leader Umit Ozdag (L) shakes hands with Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu (R) on May 24, 2023. © Alp Eren Kaya / AP

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With our correspondent in Istanbul, Anne Andlauer

Before the first round, the opposition believed that the support of voters of the pro-Kurdish HDP party was one of the keys to Kemal Kiliçdaroglu's victory, so the HDP called for a vote for him. And the opponent did indeed achieve record scores in the Kurdish-majority regions of the southeast, but it was not enough.

So, for this second round, he is trying to catch up with Recep Tayyip Erdogan by making appeals to Turkish nationalists. Especially to the 5.2% of voters who gave their vote to Sinan Ogan, the third candidate.

Seduce the nationalists and lose the Kurds?

Sinan Ogan has called for a vote for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the Victory Party (ZP), which had put him forward, now supports Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. However, to obtain this support, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu had to sign an agreement that approves – albeit with important nuances – a policy of the current government that consists of replacing mayors accused of links to terrorism with administrators. And this concerns almost all HDP mayors today.

Even if the pro-Kurdish party renewed its support for Kemal Kiliçdaroglu on Thursday 25 May, the question is therefore to what extent these voters will follow him and especially in what proportions they will go to the polls on Sunday, given the low chances of victory. Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, who was more than 2 and a half million votes behind Tayyip Erdogan in the first round, cannot afford to lose voters.

" READ ALSO – Presidential in Turkey: a few days of the second round, Kiliçdaroglu mobilizes at all costs

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  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Turkey