Turkey Election: Erdogan Rival Kilicdaroglu Promises Peace and Democracy

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Turkey Election: Erdogan Rival Kilicdaroglu Promises Peace and Democracy

For Turkey’s long-time leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it comes in the shape of a former civil servant, given to making heart emojis with his hands.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, backed by a six-party opposition alliance, says if he wins, he will bring freedom and democracy to Turkey, whatever it takes.

The youth want democracy,” he told the BBC. “They don’t want the police to come to their doors early in the morning just because they tweeted.”

He is the Islamist leader’s main rival in elections on 14 May and has a narrow lead in opinion polls. This tight race is expected to go to a second round two weeks later.

Currently, Turks can go to jail for “insulting the president.” Many have.

I am telling young people they can criticise me freely. I will make sure they have this right,” says the 74-year-old, who leads the main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP.

Some of Mr Kilicdaroglu’s supporters fear for his safety, but he says it comes with the territory.

Being in politics in Turkey means choosing a life with risks. I will walk my path whatever Erdogan and his allies do. They can’t put me off. They can’t scare me. I made a promise to this nation.

President Erdogan, 69, has mocked his rival in the past, saying he “couldn’t even herd a sheep.” But he’s harder to dismiss now.

Mr Kilicdaroglu is greeted by chanting supporters on the sea-front at Izmir

Arriving for a rally in the port city of Izmir, an opposition stronghold, the opposition candidate is greeted by a sea of flag-waving supporters.

There are chants of “Kilicdaroglu is the hope of the people.” Many in the crowd are young. Five million Turks will vote for the first time in this election.

At 15, Oguz is too young to go to the polls but couldn’t stay away from the rally. “He is a good person, and he sees the future positively. If he becomes president, our economy will rise up, and we will rise up.”

Mr Kilicdaroglu told me before the rally that he would reorient Turkey and prioritise relations with the West, not the Kremlin.

We want to become a part of the civilized world,” he said. “We want free media and complete judicial independence. Erdogan does not think that way. He wants to be more authoritarian. The difference between us and Erdogan is the difference between black and white.

Simple guide to Erdogan’s toughest election so far
But will Recep Tayyip Erdogan go quietly if he is defeated after 20 years in power, first as prime minister and now all-powerful president?

We will retire him and send him to his corner,” said Mr Kilicdaroglu. “He will step back quietly. No one should have any concerns about it.”

Others aren’t so sure. There are indications that the Turkish leader may be preparing to dispute the result if he loses. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has warned that the vote will be “a coup attempt by the West.

Mr Kilicdaroglu said the combined opposition would be vigilant, trusting neither the president, “nor his Supreme Election Council nor his judges.

By having more than one observer in all the polling stations, we want to ensure that votes are cast correctly, securely, and the counting is done properly. We have been taking precautions to achieve this, working hard for a year and a half.

In many ways, he is the anti-Erdogan. He has recorded campaign videos at his modest kitchen table, tea towels hanging neatly in the background.

Showing he knows his onions, his rival appeared in one video with one in hand. Warning prices would keep soaring if Mr Erdogan remained in power. “Now, one kilogram of onion is 30 liras,” he said. “If he stays, it will be 100 liras.



BBC/Shakirat Sadiq

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