Turkish opposition leader vows to restore democracy in final bid to unseat Erdogan

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Turkish voters will head to the polls on Sunday for the final round of the presidential election, which will determine the country’s future direction for the next five years. The runoff pits incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who have offered contrasting visions for Turkey’s role in the region and the world.

Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years as prime minister and president, is seeking a third term in office after falling just short of a majority in the first round on May 14. He received 49.5% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu got 44.9%. Erdogan has campaigned on his record of economic development, security and foreign policy achievements, while also appealing to his conservative and nationalist base. He has vowed to continue his fight against Kurdish militants, terrorism and foreign interference.

Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a six-party alliance, has promised to restore democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, which he says have been eroded under Erdogan’s authoritarian rule. He has also pledged to tackle inflation, unemployment and corruption, and to improve relations with Turkey’s NATO allies and neighbors. He has called on the 8 million voters who abstained in the first round to join him in a “referendum” on Turkey’s future.

The runoff is expected to be a close race, with both candidates trying to win over undecided and swing voters. Kilicdaroglu has hardened his stance on some issues to attract nationalist voters, such as promising to send back millions of refugees and rejecting any peace talks with Kurdish rebels. Erdogan has accused Kilicdaroglu of being a puppet of foreign powers and terrorist groups and has warned that his victory would plunge Turkey into chaos and instability.

The election comes at a critical time for Turkey, a key NATO member and regional power that faces multiple challenges at home and abroad. The country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people in February and is struggling with high inflation, low growth, and a weakening currency. Turkey also faces diplomatic tensions with the United States over its purchase of Russian missile-defense systems and with several European countries over human rights and migration issues. Turkey’s role in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan also remains uncertain amid shifting geopolitical dynamics.

The outcome of the election will have significant implications for Turkey’s domestic politics and its international standing. The winner will have sweeping executive powers under a constitutional system that was approved by a narrow margin in a 2017 referendum. The president will appoint ministers, judges and senior officials, issue decrees and declare states of emergency. The president will also have a major say over Turkey’s foreign policy orientation, which could affect its relations with NATO, the European Union, Russia, China and other regional actors.

The polls will open at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and close at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT). More than 58 million people are eligible to vote. The results are expected to be announced later on Sunday night or early Monday morning.

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