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Turkey election: Anti-migration leader backs Erdogan rival

May 24, 2023

Opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have each racked up high-profile endorsements in recent days. Turkish voters will head to the polls for a runoff vote this weekend.

Umit Ozdag and Kemal Kilicdaroglu shaking hands
Umit Ozdag and Kemal Kilicdaroglu held a joint press conference in AnkaraImage: Aytac Una/AA/picture alliance

The leader of Turkey's far-right Victory Party has announced his support for opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdarogluin the upcoming runoff presidential election on Sunday.

Victory Party leader Umit Ozdag said on Wednesday he would back Kilicdaroglu after he promised to expel millions of migrants from Turkey within a year.

"Turkey's most important issue is 13 million asylum-seekers and irregular migrants," Ozdag said at a joint press conference in the capital, Ankara.

The alleged figure of 13 million refugees used by Ozdag and other hard-line anti-migration politicians is speculative, as opposed to the United Nations figure of around 3.9 million.

The race for endorsements

In recent weeks, Kilicdaroglu has taken a harder stance against migrants in order to court the higher-than-expected nationalist vote in the first round of the election on May 14.

"Good days are ahead of us," Kilicdaroglu said at the joint press conference on Wednesday.

Ozdag's endorsement comes after ultra-nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan — who placed third in the first round with 5.2% of the presidential vote — endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

The endorsements have put unaligned political leaders in the position of kingmaker. Erdogan, who is seeking to extend his two decades in power, came close to securing a majority with 49.5% of the vote in the first round, compared to Kilicdaroglu's 44.9%.

zc/nm (AP, Reuters, dpa)