Ince’s withdrawal offers a potential boost to the opposition as it seeks to oust President Erdogan.
Muharrem Ince, the Turkish presidential candidate, one of four candidates in Sunday’s elections, said he was withdrawing from the race, in a potential boost to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main challenger.
“I am withdrawing my candidacy,” Ince told reporters. “I am doing this for my own sake.”
Before his withdrawal on Thursday, Ence was one of four candidates in the vote, along with Erdogan, his main opponents Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Sinan Ogan. An earlier poll showed Erdogan trailing Kilicdaroglu by more than five percentage points ahead of the election.
In a statement, Inge apparently blamed a smear campaign against him as the reason behind his decision to drop out of the race.
Türkiye could not protect my reputation. “The reputation of a presidential candidate is important,” Ince said.
He called on the electorate to support his “Watan” party. The Homeland Party is important to the future of Türkiye. He should be in parliament. I want votes for the Homeland Party from every home.
Ince also attacked the opposition, saying: “When they [the opposition] They lose the election and blame us. They shouldn’t have any excuses.”
Basın Açıklaması / Memleket Partisi Genel Merkezi https://t.co/oTjeC2ARmJ
– Muharram NCE (@vekilince) May 11, 2023
The 59-year-old was the only contender not backed by an alliance. He described the Al-Watan Party and its movement as the “Third Way”.
Ence was a former center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and a candidate in the 2018 election, coming in second. He later defected from the party, which he criticizes.
Ince said Turkish social democrats and secular nationalists should unite against “Islamic” political parties.
His confrontational style led to scrapes with journalists, and Kilicdaroglu’s supporters thought he was siphoning support from their candidate and helping Erdoğan.
Ince came under heavy criticism from the opposition for entering the election campaign.
Most saw him as a spoiler candidate who could only help Erdogan secure a third decade in power.
Ince responded by saying he offered voters a more colorful alternative to the 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu – a former civil servant, who lost a series of national elections against Erdogan.
Before his withdrawal, Ince promised to return refugees to their countries of origin and to “restore” secularism in Turkey if he seized the presidency.
The latest opinion polls showed that Kilicdaroglu is ahead of Erdogan by a few percentage points and does not break the fifty percent threshold needed to win the first round.
Ince’s popularity plummeted after touching nearly 15 percent.
Recent polls show that he has between 2 and 4% of the vote.
But that might be enough to put Kilicdaroglu over the top.
The Metropoll survey showed that 30.5% of Ince’s support goes to Kilicdaroglu and 23.4% goes to Erdogan.
Ince, in particular, did not endorse any candidate after the withdrawal.
His name will also continue to appear on the presidential ballot.
A fourth secondary candidate – the nationalist Oğan – is believed to be drawing votes away from Erdoğan.
“Another crazy day in Turkish politics,” said emerging market economist Timothy Ash.
“Ince dropped out, assuming most of his votes now go to Kilicdaroglu, making it possible/more likely for (Kilicdaroglu) to win in the first round.”
Kilicdaroglu has been pleading since the days of Ince to officially support his candidacy.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has been organizing daily rallies announcing incentives and rewards for voters with the aim of galvanizing support.
The 69-year-old Turkish leader pledged on Thursday to double the size of the public sector wage increase he had previously promised.
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