Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has escalated his rhetoric against his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, by calling him an “LGBT person” ahead of the May 14 elections. Erdogan’s remarks came during a rally in the Black Sea city of Giresun on Thursday, where he also declared that he was “against the LGBT” and that “family is sacred” to him.
Erdogan’s government views LGBT ideology as a foreign and immoral influence that threatens Turkey’s social fabric and national identity. He has repeatedly attacked the LGBTQ community and its supporters in recent months, accusing them of being “polluted by viruses and perverts” and of undermining Turkey’s traditional values.
Erdogan is facing a tight race against Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the secular and leftist Republican People’s Party (CHP), who heads a six-party coalition that aims to end Erdogan’s 19-year rule. Kilicdaroglu has tried to avoid engaging in Erdogan’s divisive rhetoric and instead focused on his own messages of healing Turkey’s social polarization, restoring economic stability, and securing new investment from the West.
Polls show Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu running neck-and-neck in one of Turkey’s most important and unpredictable elections in its modern history. Erdogan’s campaign has been hampered by a severe economic crisis and public discontent over his handling of a devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in southeast Turkey in February.
Analysts say Erdogan is resorting to “perpetual culture wars” to rally his conservative and religious base behind him, while alienating large segments of Turkish society that value diversity and inclusion. The outcome of the election will have major implications for Turkey’s future direction and its relations with the West.