Commentary: Presidential hopeful Kilicdaroglu launches negative campaign, promises to dispatch refugees, accuses Erdogan of colluding with terror organizations

Pollsters assign  very low odds to Nation Alliance candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the run-off against Erdogan to be held on 28 May, but he seems determined to go down fighting.

After  a campaign erected on hope, reconciliation and democracy which fell short of delivering the boost to propel him ahead of Erdogan in the first round, Kilicdaroglu changed strategy, focusing on getting rid of refugees. His allies are likely to open a second front to explain to voters how another five years with Erdogan could spell permanent economic misery.


Also noteworthy in his speech was his downplaying of large-scale fraud in elections, which claims enraged CHP voters during the week. Nevertheless, he pointed to the properties of cheating inviting “1 million patriots” to defend the vote next Sunday, by acting as ballot observers.

Turkish opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has promised to send “10 million refugees” home if he wins a May 28 run-off as he shifts to a sharply more anti-migrant tone to try to win nationalist votes and defeat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kilicdaroglu went further on Thursday, saying that Erdogan “did not protect [Turkey’s] borders and honor”.

“You knowingly brought more than 10 million refugees to this country,” Kilicdaroglu said. “… I am announcing it here – as soon as I come to power, I will send all refugees home. Period.”


Kilicdaroglu will face Erdogan in a tense second round election on May 28, after neither candidate secured more than 50 percent of the vote in a first round poll last weekend. While the 74-year-old liberal democratic economist Kilicdaroglu had hoped to capitalize on growing anger at the government’s handling of the economy and the earthquakes that left 50,000 people dead in February, he came second, securing less than 45 percent to Erdogan’s 49 percent. He now faces an uphill struggle to topple Erdogan in the second round.



He also sought to repel claims by Erdogan that he and his “table of six” coalition were aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK, which has sought autonomy in Turkey through violent attacks and is on US and European terrorist lists, reported Financial Times.

“Here I declare openly and again, I have never sat down with terrorist organizations, and I never will,” Kilicdaroglu said. “Aren’t you Erdogan, sitting at the table with terrorist organizations?” he asked, pointing to the president’s former ties to the cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the government now blames for orchestrating a failed 2016 coup attempt from his compound in Pennsylvania.


Kilicdaroglu also warned that the Turkish lira would tumble to TL30 against the US dollar, from record lows slightly less than TL20, saying that under a continuation of Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies, “looting will begin”.


Can Kilicdaroglu win? Some experts claim Erdogan’s votes have peaked, while supporters of Sinan Ogan are likely to migrate in equal numbers to both  candidates. Kilicdaroglu needs to attract an estimated 1.5 million CHP voters which may have boycotted the first round because of the party opening space in its rosters to former enemies Saadet, Gelecek and Deva Parties. He also needs to gain back an estimated 16% of IYIP voters which supported other candidates.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.