Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid homage on Saturday to his executed Islamic predecessor in an attempt to rally his conservative base on the eve of a historic runoff vote.
Erdogan’s visit to Istanbul’s Adnan Menderes mausoleum takes him back to the man he cited when he called early polls for May 14 in a bid to ease his way to an unprecedented third decade of rule.
The two candidates are aiming to attract some 8 million voters who did not go to the polls in the first round.
Erdogan, 69, told his followers in January that he wanted to continue Menderes’s fight for religious rights and nationalist causes in the officially secular but overwhelmingly Muslim republic of 85 million people.
“The era of coups and juntas is over,” the 69-year-old declared yesterday after laying a wreath at his mentor’s tomb. “I once again call on you to go to the ballot boxes. Tomorrow is a special day for us all.”
In the first round of election two weeks ago, Erdogan ended up beating secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu by nearly five percentage points.
But his failure to top the 50-per cent threshold set up Turkey’s first election runoff and underscored the gradual ebbing of support for its longestserving leader.
‘They are afraid’ Kilicdaroglu has focused his campaign on more immediate concerns as he tries to come from behind and bring back power to the secular party that ruled Turkey for most of the 20th century. He used a latenight TV interview on Friday to accuse Erdogan’s government of unfairly blocking his mass text messages to voters.
“They are afraid of us,” the 74-year-old former civil servant said.
Kilicdaroglu, who is backed by a six-party opposition alliance, said everyone who loves Turkey must vote.
“If you really want it, we’ll all get out of this dark pit together,” he wrote in a Tweet.
“I am calling to all our people regardless of their view or lifestyle. This is the last exit. Everyone who loves their country should go to the ballot box!”