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Erdogan Rival Kilicdaroglu Plays Anti-Migrant Card to Woo Nationalist Vote

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, candidate of the opposition Nation Alliance in the presidential race against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has switched to an anti-migrant focus to attract nationalist votes in the May 28 presidential run-off.

“As soon as I come to power, I will send all refugees home,” Kilicdaroglu said in Ankara four days after disappearing from media view after his election defeat in the first round.

Kilicdaroglu, president of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, claimed that there are 10 million refugees in Turkey, and that millions more are on the way.

“If they [Erdogan’s goverment] remain [in power], more than 10 million refugees will come to Turkey. If they win … these fugitives and asylum seekers will turn into potential crime machines, and plunder will begin,” Kilicdaroglu said, surprising many after his positive campaign before May 14.

In the May 14 general and presidential elections, contrary to most elections polls, Kilicdaroglu and his alliance lost the parliamentary race to Erdogan. In the presidential race, he was more than 2 million votes behind Erdogan, receiving 44.9 of the total votes.

Erdogan received 49.5 per cent of the total votes. Sinan Ogan, from the ultra nationalist and anti-migration ATA Alliance, received 5.2 per cent, becoming the de facto kingmaker to decide the victor in the presidential run-off.

According to experts, Kilicdaroglu aims to attract nationalist votes in order to win an advantage in the run-off on May 28 but it may not work out.

“This nationalist discourse will not provide an advantage to Kilicdaroglu to win the election [run-off], this is a kind of appetiser nationalism,” said Nurettin Kalkan, a political scientist and a senior fellow at the Freedom Research Association in the capital, Ankara.

According to Kalkan, Kilicdarolgu’s sudden shift in tone only 10 days before the second round is a major misread of Turkish politics.

“The biggest delusion in this shift is that Kilicdaroglu thinks the entire nationalist electorates’ main concern is refugees,” Kalkan told BIRN.

He added that while some nationalists vote for ultra-nationalist and anti-migration ATA alliance led by Victory Party, “they also vote for [Erdogan’s ally] the Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, and for [Kilicdaroglu’s ally] the Good Party as well as Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP.”

“For Victory Party voters, refugees may be very important, but among MHP voters the biggest issue is Kilicdaroglu’s cooperation with [the pro-Kurdish] Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP. For Good Party voters, the wounds from March political crisis, when it left the Nation Alliance for a few days, are still open,” Kalkan continued.

Kalkan underlined that there is a very little time in the presidential run-off to see the results of this major shift in policy.

“In 2018, some MHP voters did not vote for Erdogan because it took time for them to test the nationalism of Erdogan, which significantly started after 2016. Kilicdaroglu desperately uses this new discourse as a last resort – but it will not produce any positive result,” Kalkan predicted.

Ogan, from the ATA Alliance, said on Tuesday that the two remaining candidates both want his support in the run-off. He demanded the full expulsion of refugees in the country, but also had other requests.

“We are against the transfer of terrorist organisations and their political appendages to parliament. Those who do not distance themselves from a terrorist organisation should not come [to us],” Ogan told Hurriyet newspaper.

Ogan was referring to Erdogan’s ally, HUDAPAR, which has alleged ties to the Turkish branch of Hezbollah, and to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, which supports Kilicdaroglu.

Kilicdaroglu’s nationalist move also worries the HDP and its Kurdish voters that have pledged to support Kilicdaroglu due to his promises to solve the country’s never-ending Kurdish issue.

Kilicdaroglu received full support from eastern and south-eastern provinces of Turkey, where ethnic Kurds are the majority.

“Let’s think that Kilicdaroglu’s appetiser nationalism satisfied all Turkish nationalists, but this time Kurdish voters will abandon Kilicdaroglu,” Kalkan warned.

Source: Balkan Insight