Everyone to the right! Since nationalism succeeded in pushing Turkish politics to its extremes in the first round of the May 14 general elections, the candidate of the opposition coalition, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, has decided to swing to the right, much further to the right, with his eye on the second round of the presidential election, scheduled for May 28.
Trailing the outgoing president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by nearly five points on Sunday, May 14, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) launched his offensive on Wednesday 17, by railing in a video against the number of refugees on Turkish soil. “We will not abandon our homeland to this mentality that has introduced 10 million undocumented migrants among us,” he claimed.
The chorus is not new. In recent years, Kiliçdaroglu has often reminded us, when addressing the subject of the economic crisis that is hitting Turkey, that he wants the refugees (Syrians in particular) to leave. His tone now sets itself apart by its vehemence, which corresponds more or less to the one used by the country’s most ultranationalist groups in their speeches.
The next day, the candidate of the so-called “Alliance of the Nation” coalition, or “Table of Six,” continued in an unfamiliar voice, from the podium of the CHP headquarters in Ankara, under a huge portrait of Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. “Erdogan, aren’t you the one who sat down many times at the negotiating table with terrorist organizations?” The statement refers to the peace process (2003-2015) undertaken by Ankara with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It also refers to the systematic criticism of his who opponent accuses him of being linked to this group – which is banned in Turkey – to obtain the support of the HDP, the pro-Kurdish left-wing party.
Discussion with an anti-immigration group
President Erdogan has made Kiliçdaroglu’s informal collaboration with the HDP a key issue in his campaign. This accusation has paid off, according to many analysts, and cost the opposition candidate votes, especially among nationalist voters. At the podium on Thursday, the candidate insisted: “I have never sat at a table with terrorist organizations and I never will.”
The next day, he held talks with Ümit Özdag, the leader of a new far-right anti-immigration and anti-Kurdish formation, the Victory Party (Zafer Partisi). The latter is the ally of Sinan Ogan, the candidate who came third in the presidential election with 5.3% of the vote, and who has since been presented as the “kingmaker” of the second round. His ideas also fall under ultranationalism. In a joint statement, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu re-emphasized the need for asylum seekers to return to their home countries and said the problem could be resolved quickly by making readmission agreements with their home nations. The two leaders hinted that talks about future ministerial positions had also taken place. If they agree, and win, Ogan could be offered the head of a new migration ministry or even the vice presidency.
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