Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu: Turkey’s Election Promises


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to face opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the upcoming presidential election run-off on Sunday. Erdogan, who has been in power for over two decades, is expected to win another five-year term after narrowly missing out on victory in the first round of voting on May 14. In the first round, Erdogan received 49.5% of the votes, while Kilicdaroglu scored 44.8%. The third candidate, Sinan Ogan, took 5.2% with the support of an ultranationalist alliance. However, in a surprising move, Ogan has opted to support Erdogan in the run-off while the ATA Alliance that backed him has thrown its weight behind Kilicdaroglu after reaching a deal. The rise in nationalist votes in the first round and the nationalistic nature of the third candidate and alliance have had a significant effect on election campaigning during the two-week interlude before the run-off. The election agenda has visibly moved from the crisis-hit Turkish economy and relief from the February earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people to topics such as “terrorism” and the fate of refugees in the country. Here is a summary of the two candidates’ policies, promises and rhetoric on key issues:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

‘Terror’: Erdogan has consistently pursued sharp rhetoric against “terrorist” groups throughout the campaigning period, keeping security issues high on the agenda in an apparent attempt to attract nationalist votes. He frequently claimed his opponent is supported by “terror” groups such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged war since the 1980s for autonomy, and the Gulen movement, Erdogan’s former ally turned arch-enemy accused of a 2016 coup attempt. Throughout his campaign, Erdogan has said his government will crush these groups.

Refugees: Erdogan has promised to return some one million Syrian refugees to their homeland after implementing housing projects in Turkey-controlled northern Syria, without giving a specific timeline. He also said improving dialogue between Syria and Turkey through Russian mediation efforts will help increase the “voluntary” return of refugees. Erdogan has often accused the opposition of being discriminatory against the refugees in the country, which, according to official numbers, hosts 3.4 million of them.

Economy: Erdogan has pledged to continue with his unorthodox economic policies, including keeping interest rates low despite hyperinflation and a cost-of-living crisis. He has said he aims to pull the inflation level down to 20% in 2023 and below 10% in 2024, but added his government would keep decreasing interest rates.

Earthquake relief: Erdogan has promised to provide quake survivors in southeastern Turkey with home loans with a 20-year maturity and a two-year grace period. His government aims to build a total of 650,000 new flats in the region and promised to deliver 319,000 of these in one year. The Turkish president also announced he will set up key defence industry production facilities in some of the temblor-hit provinces.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu

‘Terror’: The presidential contender has made “terrorism” one of his top topics during the two-week pause between votes. He has made remarks on how Erdogan’s government and the Gulen organisation were former allies, and Turkey and the PKK held talks with the president’s approval in the past. On television and social media, he pledged to fight all “terrorists”.

Refugees: Kilicdaroglu has increased anti-refugee rhetoric after the first polls in an apparent attempt to attract nationalist votes. The candidate promised to send refugees in Turkey back to their homeland in two years before the first election through an agreement with the Syrian government. The Kilicdaroglu-Victory Party protocol decreased this to one year.

Economy: Kilicdaroglu has pledged to bring back conventional economic policies, including rational interest rates, to fight crippling hyperinflation in the country, frequently condemning Erdogan’s policy of low interest rates. The presidential candidate has said he will work to attract foreign investment for Turkey as he works to create a country manufacturing high-value products.

Earthquake relief: The opposition leader has promised to provide free housing for earthquake survivors who lost their property in the disaster. Kilicdaroglu has said he aims to transform earthquake-hit provinces into a manufacturing base, adding materials needed to build new housing will be manufactured in the region.

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