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Turkish President Erdogan held a rally in Istanbul’s Esenler district ahead of Sunday’s second round

Two opposing visions of Turkey’s future are on the ballot when voters return to the polls on Sunday for a runoff in the presidential election that will decide between an increasingly authoritarian incumbent and a committed challenger to restore democracy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday held a rally in Istanbul’s Esenler district ahead of Sunday’s run-off presidential election.

“Turkey has come with us to places unimaginable before,” he said.

Erdogan, a populist and polarizing leader who ruled Turkey for 20 years, is poised to win after falling just short of victory in the first round of voting on May 14.

He was the top finisher even as the country reeled from sky-high inflation and the effects of a devastating earthquake in February.

“Our nation has seen the biggest investment and development initiative in the history of our country over the past 21 years,” Erdogan told the crowd on Friday.

“Our democracy has acquired its strongest position during this period.

“The most successful fight against terrorist organizations was carried out during this period. Our country’s influence in world politics also increased during this period.”

His challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main pro-secular opposition party and a six-party alliance, campaigned on a promise to reverse Erdogan’s authoritarian tilt.

The 74-year-old former bureaucrat described the run-off as a referendum on the leadership of the strategically located NATO country, which sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and has a key word on expansion of the covenant.

“It is an existential fight. Turkey will either be dragged into darkness or into light,” Kilicdaroglu said.

“It’s more than an election. It’s become a referendum.

In a bid to sway nationalist voters ahead of Sunday’s run-off, the normally mild-mannered Kilicdaroglu shifted gears and hardened his stance, promising to send millions of refugees back if elected and dismissing any possibility of negotiations. peace with Kurdish militants.

The Social Democrat had previously said he planned to repatriate Syrians within two years, after establishing favorable economic and security conditions for their return.

He also repeatedly called out eight million people who stayed away from the polls in the first round to vote in the deciding second round.

Erdogan got 49.5% of the votes in the first round. Kilicdaroglu got 44.9%.

euronews Gt

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