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The Economist endorses Kılıçdaroğlu for president, angering Erdoğan, his gov’t

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British weekly newspaper The Economist has endorsed the presidential candidacy of Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu against incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, drawing angry reactions from Erdoğan and his government with accusations of interference in Turkey’s elections.

In its latest edition The Economist featured Turkey’s May 14 election on its cover with the headline “The most important election of 2023” and subtitles “Save democracy,” “Vote!” and “Erdogan must go.”

Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, which many see as a turning point in the country whether it will continue its authoritarian course under the rule of Erdoğan or take on a new path for a democratic rule.

In the related article titled, “Could Erdogan be ousted in Turkey’s coming election?” The Economist talks about how Erdoğan, during his two-decade rule, undermined Turkish institutions, persecuted opponents, silenced independent media and managed the economy poorly, making Turkey barely deserving of the label of democracy in the eyes of many observers.

The Economist said, “in an era when strongman rule is on the rise, from Hungary to India, the peaceful ejection of Mr Erdogan would show democrats everywhere that strongmen can be beaten.”

The newspaper said Kılıçdaroğlu may be a little dull, but he is a dogged creator of consensus and charmingly humble, the opposite of his adversary.

“If he were to win, it would be a huge moment for Turkey, Europe and the global struggle for genuine democracy. Mr Erdogan did some good things in his early years in office, but the steady accumulation of excessive power clouded his judgment and his moral sense, as it tends to. We warmly endorse Kemal Kilicdaroglu as the next president of Turkey,” said the prestigious publication.

Erdoğan tweeted on Friday that his government would not allow “magazines that are the operational mechanisms of global powers” to manipulate Turkey’s domestic politics with their covers and impose their will on the nation.

He said there is a strong Turkey now under his rule with its diplomatic, military and political successes.

Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s communications director, was also unsettled by The Economist’s endorsement of Kılıçdaroğlu, tweeting that the government regrets the pathological anti-Turkey stance and Erdoğan hostility of the Western media before the May 14 elections and are following the publications targeting the will of the nation with surprise.

Altun also shared other covers from foreign publications such as the French weekly magazine Le Point and French daily newspaper L’Express, which also endorsed Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy.

He said as Turkey “gets rid of the shackles,” the violence of Western attacks increases. He said those dreaming of halting the rise of Turkey should abandon their dream.

Erdoğan spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also tweeted about The Economist’s cover, saying, “They’re excited again,” implying that before every election the Western media gets excited about the prospects of Erdoğan’s leaving power.

“I know this language, discourse and in what context it is said. Calm down. Gone are the days when you instructed my country. The people will have the last word at the ballot box,” Kalın said.

Erdoğan, who has been in power for 20 years, is facing his toughest challenge yet, as opinion polls show him neck-and-neck with Kılıçdaroğlu or losing to him.

The president has been held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent years and for a poor response to twin earthquakes that hit the country’s south in February, killing tens of thousands and leaving millions homeless.

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