Opposition parties and dissidents in Turkey have welcomed the decision of candidate Muharrem İnce, leader of the Homeland Party, to withdraw from the presidential race, in a move expected to tip the scales in favor of the opposition in Turkey’s upcoming presidential election.
Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections this Sunday.
İnce’s withdrawal has increased the likelihood of an election victory for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader and presidential candidate of an opposition alliance of six parties.
Kılıçdaroğlu is the main rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.
Many said the candidacy of İnce, a former CHP member who formed his own party following a falling out in 2021, could weaken Kılıçdaroğlu’s chances of winning since his likely voters would be from among people supporting Kılıçdaroğlu, not Erdoğan.
After İnce’s announcement, Kılıçdaroğlu called on him to put aside “old grievances and grudges” and join his National Alliance, an opposition bloc of six parties.
“We invite Mr. İnce to Turkey’s table,” tweeted the CHP leader, accompanied by a song titled “The Table of Abraham” by Barış Manço — a celebrated Turkish musician and composer. The title alludes to the Muslim tradition of a generous table hosted by a person who always offers abundant food and a warm welcome.
Benim çağrım hala geçerli. Eski kırgınlıkları, dargınlıkları bir kenara bırakalım artık. Sayın İnce’yi Türkiye’nin sofrasına bekliyoruz. Buyursun lütfen gelsin…https://t.co/Oz8PwGyf3N
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) May 11, 2023
“Welcome to the Table of Abraham, Mr. Muharrem İnce. Everything is for Turkey,” CHP İstanbul MP Gürsel Tekin said.
Sayın Muharrem İnce
Halil İbrahim Sofrası’na hoşgeldiniz
Her şey Türkiye için 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/onvcPAHHnl
— Gürsel Tekin (@gurseltekin34) May 11, 2023
CHP’s Bolu Mayor Tanju Özcan described İnce’s move as a “great sacrifice” and congratulated him for his “historic decision.”
Sayın Muharrem İnce’ye yapılan komploları yeniden en şiddetli şekilde kınıyorum.
Sayın İnce, büyük bir fedakarlık yaparak adaylıktan çekilmek suretiyle Türkiye’nin önünü açmıştır. Bu ülkede adaletin kalmadığını da herkesin yüzüne haykırmıştır. Bir Cumhurbaşkanı adayının… pic.twitter.com/V2rhEmUAsj
— Tanju ÖZCAN (@tanjuozcanchp) May 11, 2023
Speaking to the press in Eskişehir about the development, Gültekin Uysal, leader of the Democratic Party (DP), one of the six parties in the Nation Alliance, said he viewed İnce’s move to withdraw from the candidacy positively so as not to confuse voters.
“Muharrem İnce withdrew. [The presidential election] is ending in the first round. Spring is now much closer,” author and poet Ahmet Ümit said in a tweet.
Muharrem İnce çekildi. İlk turda bitiyor. Bahar artık çok daha yakın…
— Ahmet Ümit (@baskomsernevzat) May 11, 2023
İnce, who canceled several election rallies on Wednesday reportedly due to health problems, said he has faced tremendous pressure, a relentless defamation campaign and character assassination over the past 45 days, which caused him to make the decision to drop out.
Claims about a secret deal İnce allegedly made with Erdoğan in return for his remaining in the presidential race to divide the opposition vote had been circulating since he announced his candidacy in March.
Earlier this week photos showing İnce allegedly having an extramarital affair and alleged phone conversations between the two of them were also published on social media.
İnce said he has not been intimidated by all these efforts to defame him, calling them lies and slander while complaining that the Turkish government and judicial authorities had failed to protect his dignity as a presidential candidate in the wake of the defamation campaign against him.