Turkish Presidential Hopeful Abruptly Drops Out, Bolstering Erdogan’s Rival in a Puzzling Turn of Events

It is the dawn of Friday May 12, 2023, and with it comes startling news that a presidential candidate has withdrawn from an election race that is set to take place in Turkey. The decision of Muharrem Ince, who leads the center-left Homeland Party, creates an air of perplexity as to what this means for the upcoming election and the future of Turkey. This move is highly likely to bolster the main opposition party’s – led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu – chances of beating the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The election, set to take place on May 14, has been a battle of intense politics, with Erdogan facing one of the most challenging contests of his 20-year rule. Polls leading up to this point had given Kilicdaroglu a slight lead over Erdogan, although neither candidate was expected to garner more than 50% of the votes necessary to be elected in the first round. The withdrawal of Ince from the race, who originally polled 8% of the votes announced when his candidacy was first revealed, but whose popularity has become increasingly bursty, now has further obscured the election’s trajectory.

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The campaign has been fraught with criticism, with Ince facing backlash for splintering the votes of the six-party Nation Alliance – a coalition of opposition parties – and possibly forcing the presidential race into a second-round. As he stepped down from the race, he remarked to reporters that he was doing so for his country. However, Ince did not make a statement in support of Kilicdaroglu, even though analysts say his withdrawal is likely to benefit the Nation Alliance.

As the news trickled out, Nation Alliance members welcomed Ince’s decision to step down, with Gultekin Uysal, leader of the center-right Democrat Party remarking “God willing, our nation will take the necessary step in the days ahead so that we will (succeed) in the first round.”

Although Ince’s withdrawal is a blow to his existing loyal supporters, it should be noted that Homeland Party, which he formed in 2021, has indicated that it would still contest in the parliamentary elections. Ince called for votes to be cast for the party from “each household”. Ince had previously contested the 2018 presidential elections against Erdogan under Kilicdaroglu’s main opposition party CHP, where he had gained around 30% of the votes, later breaking away from the party. Ince said, in an apparent reference to Kilicdaroglu, that “They will have no excuses if they lose the election.”

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