The leader of the Turkish opposition alliance and presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has warned his supporters to stay indoors and avoid public celebrations if he wins the election on May 14, citing the risk of violence and provocation by “armed elements” loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In an interview with a television late on Thursday, Kilicdaroglu said he was confident that he would defeat Erdogan in the first round of voting, without needing a runoff. He said he had received a strong demand for change from the Turkish people, who are suffering from economic and social problems.
However, he also urged caution and vigilance, saying that some people might try to stir trouble or create fake news on social media to undermine his victory. He claimed that he had intelligence that the government had hired hackers from abroad and paid them in Bitcoin to produce false video or voice records against him.
“When we are victorious on election night, all our citizens should stay indoors instead of rejoicing in the streets,” Kilicdaroglu said. “Some people might stir trouble, some people may be provoked, armed elements may take the streets.”
Kilicdaroglu is the candidate of a six-party opposition alliance that includes secularists, nationalists, Islamists and Kurds. He is also backed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is not part of the alliance but supports him as a common candidate against Erdogan.
Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, is seeking a third term as president under a new executive system that grants him sweeping powers. He faces a tough challenge from Kilicdaroglu, who has promised to restore democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Turkey.
According to the latest polls, Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan are neck-and-neck, with both candidates receiving around 47% of the vote. However, some polls suggest that Kilicdaroglu could win a second round with 52% of the vote.
Turkey’s election campaign has been marred by tensions, polarisation and violence. Several opposition politicians and activists have been attacked or arrested by security forces or pro-government groups. The opposition has also accused the government of using state resources and media to influence the voters.
The election is widely seen as a critical test for Turkey’s future direction and its relations with its allies and neighbors. Kilicdaroglu has vowed to revive Turkey’s EU membership bid and improve ties with NATO and the US. Erdogan has adopted a more nationalist and assertive foreign policy, clashing with several countries over regional issues such as Syria, Libya and Cyprus.