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Turkey elections: Opposition candidate Kilicdaroglu promises to expel all refugees

Pitching for nationalist votes, Kemal Kilicdaroglu again accuses Erdogan of letting '10 million' people into the country
Leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the joint presidential candidate of the Nation Alliance, Kemal Kilicdaroglu gives a press conference in Ankara on 18 May 2023 (AFP)

Turkey's main opposition presidential candidate has promised to expel all refugees from the country in a bid to attract nationalist voters ahead of the second round of elections on 28 May.

In his first public address since the elections last Sunday, in which he came in almost five points behind President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kemal Kilicdaroglu criticised the longterm ruler's immigration policies.

"Erdogan, you did not protect the borders and honour of the country," he said.

"You have deliberately brought more than 10 million refugees to this country... as soon as I come to power, I will send all the refugees home."

There are around four million refugees in Turkey, according to the United Nations, the majority of which are Syrian, who are officially classified as "guests" due to the country's longstanding policy of not recognising non-Europeans as official refugees.

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The presence of Syrians has generated widespread anger and xenophobia across Turkey, and politicians of both major parties have promised to expatriate them.

On Sunday evening, Kilicdaroglu received 44.96 percent of the votes while Erdogan, the head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), secured 49.4 percent, 0.6 percent short of an outright victory.

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A third candidate, nationalist Sinan Ogan, obtained 5.17 percent and both Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan are expected to seek his endorsement in negotiations this week.

Ogan told Reuters that he would support Kilicdaroglu in the runoff "if he agrees to offer no concessions to a pro-Kurdish party".

Yet distancing himself from the Kurdish vote would be disastrous for Kilicdaroglu, who won heavily in Kurdish-dominated cities. 

Both Kilicdaroglu and the AKP's Binali Yildirim were reported to have held a phone call with Ogan following the vote.

Ultra-nationalist politicians - present in both the government and opposition alliances, as well as among independents - have made the expulsion of Syrians from the country their top demand.

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