Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned his supporters that they would pay a “heavy price” if his rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, came to power in the elections scheduled for the weekend.
Erdogan is trying to rally his supporters ahead of Sunday’s elections that put at stake his two-decade rule.
Opinion polls show his rival has a slight lead and is close to passing the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a second round on May 28.
What contributed to strengthening the positions of the opposition was the withdrawal of candidate Muharrem Ince, who represents a third party, on Thursday, as it could have weakened Kilicdaroglu’s chances of inflicting the first electoral defeat on the Turkish president.
Erdogan, as usual, avoided predicting the outcome of the most competitive elections in Turkey in modern times, when he answered a question from a journalist on television whether he would win the elections by saying, “The polls will decide Sunday.”
Erdogan, 69, also acknowledged that he was having difficulty winning over the voter base of young people who do not remember the corruption and economic chaos that prevailed under the governments in Turkey in the 1990s.
“There is a generation in our country that has not experienced any of the problems we have experienced,” he declared in another media appearance this week.
“Don’t forget… you may pay a heavy price if we lose,” he said Friday at a rally in Istanbul to his supporters waving flags.
And he considered that Western governments use the opposition to impose their vision on Turkish society, adding, “O West, my nation is the one who decides.”
But Erdogan’s candid comments indicate a growing realization that he may not be able to play his trump cards.
The Turkish president has gradually lost the support of key segments of the people who have gathered around him during the most prosperous decade since he came to power in 2003.-
Some opinion polls show that the segment of young people who have never known a president other than Erdogan in their lives supports his main rival.-
And the Kurds, who had previously trusted his efforts to end their cultural oppression, now support Kilicdaroglu’s campaign.
The economic crisis has also prompted other groups to lose confidence in his government.
“We find it difficult to explain our values to this new generation. Our young people are making comparisons not with the old Turkey, but with countries that have much better conditions than here,” Erdogan said.
Kilicdaroglu’s party told AFP that the opposition leader wore a bulletproof vest at two rallies on Friday because there was a real threat to his life.
The candidate delivered an uncharacteristically terse speech during his evening stop in Ankara, where thousands waited for him in the pouring rain.
Kilicdaroglu asserts that his immediate goal after the elections will be to launch a process aimed at stripping the office of president of many of the powers that Erdogan has concentrated in his hands after 2016.
Kilicdaroglu wants to return power to parliament after Erdogan seized it through a constitutional referendum.
This will require that the opposition win the legislative elections that are held to coincide with the presidential elections on Sunday.
However, opinion polls showed that Erdogan’s right-wing alliance is ahead of the opposition bloc in the legislative elections.
But the opposition may win a majority if it gets the support of a new left-wing coalition that represents the Kurdish vote.