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Challenger in Turkiye presidential race offers sharp contrast

ANKARA, TURKIYE (AP) – The main challenger trying to unseat Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in this month’s presidential election cuts a starkly different figure than the incumbent who has ruled the country for two decades.

Where Erdogan is a mesmerising orator, the unassuming Kemal Kilicdaroglu is soft spoken.

Erdogan is also a master campaigner who uses state resources and events to reach supporters while Kilicdaroglu talks to voters in videos recorded in his kitchen.

As the polarising Erdogan has grown increasingly authoritarian, Kilicdaroglu has built a reputation as a bridge builder and vows to restore democracy. The contrasts are reflected in the two men’s political paths.

Erdogan’s staying power has kept him in office first as prime minister then as president since 2003.

Kilicdaroglu has not won a general election since taking the helm of his secular, centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2010.

But that could change on May 14, when Turkiye holds its most hotly contested presidential election in years.

Opinion surveys give Kilicdaroglu, 74, a slight lead over Erdogan, even though analysts warn of the perils of writing off a president with potent political skills.

Leader of Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu. PHOTO: AP
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