Turkey’s opposition leader vowed on Thursday to return millions of migrants in a strident message designed to earn the support of an ultra-nationalist who helped force a runoff in the weekend’s presidential election.
Sunday was the first time secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu addressed the public since a historic election in which he finished nearly five points behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu delivered the opposition’s finest performance during the Turkish leader’s two-decade rule.
However, it fell short of pre-election polling expectations and left the opposition visibly despondent.
Since then, the 74-year-old has reorganized his campaign team and toughened his message to win over Turkey’s right-wing electors in the runoff election on May 28. In addition, he intends to meet Sinan Ogan, a far-right figure who received 5.2% of the vote and is still considering his endorsement.
Kilicdaroglu attempted on Thursday to significantly toughen his message compared to the more inclusive tone he adopted at the beginning of the campaign.
The former civil servant said, “Erdogan, you failed to protect the country’s borders and honor.”
“You have brought more than 10 million refugees to this nation on purpose… As soon as I assume authority, I will send all refugees back home.”
Ogan has stated that he will only support a candidate who cracks down on migrants and combats “terrorism” — a code term for Kurdish militants in Turkey.
“Syrians are our siblings”
Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted party were lauded by vast swaths of the Muslim world for their more tolerant posture towards refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria and other countries.
In the past decade, Turkey’s refugee and migrant population of five million became the largest in the globe.
A separate agreement between Ankara and the European Union in 2016 permitted migrants attempting to reach Western Europe to settle in Turkey, thereby mitigating the continent’s migration crisis.
Brussels awarded billions of euros in financing to Turkey for the program. Anti-immigrant sentiment soared, however, as a result of an economic crisis that accelerated as the election drew closer.
The Erdogan administration has attempted to find a compromise.
Thursday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu stated that Turkey had already repatriated over 500,000 Syrians.
We will not turn Turkey into a warehouse for refugees, and we have not done so to date. “However, the Syrians are our brothers,” said Soylu.
“We cannot condemn them to death. We have not, however. Erdogan does not wish to be remembered as the leader who caused the fatalities of Syrians.