Kemal Kilicdaroglu: Turkish opposition leader swears tens of thousands of supporters to change of power - the stern reporter is there

A week before the presidential elections in Turkey, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu campaigned for a change of power.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu: Turkish opposition leader swears tens of thousands of supporters to change of power - the stern reporter is there

A week before the presidential elections in Turkey, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu campaigned for a change of power. Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers in Istanbul on Saturday, Kilicdaroglu said: "You will replace an authoritarian government with democratic means." A change is a gift to world politics. The 74-year-old promised that he would restore the rule of law in the country.

On May 14th a new president and a new parliament will be elected in Turkey. After 20 years in power, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has to fear for his re-election. Polls predict a neck-and-neck race between him and challenger Kilicdaroglu. Since April 27, around 1.5 million Turkish voters in Germany have been able to cast their votes until May 9.

The 74-year-old Kilicdaroglu has declared war on injustice in the country and the "one-man state" Erdogan. He is a candidate for six opposition parties from different camps in the parliamentary and presidential elections in a week's time. After 20 years in power, 69-year-old Erdogan is not entering the race as a favorite for the first time.

Many were against Kilicdaroglu's candidacy, including from his own ranks. The mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, was considered the favourite, but was banned from politics. Critics accused Kilicdaroglu of not being able to convert popular displeasure with the economic situation into an increase in votes for his party for years.

Kilicdaroglu has not had any successes in national elections in his 13 years as opposition leader - in contrast to Erdogan, who has won every vote since he was elected prime minister in 2003. Erdogan likes to tease his opponent and derogatorily calls him Bay Kemal (Mr. Kemal). The opposition leader takes it easy and now uses "Bay Kemal" to describe himself.

Kilicdaroglu was born in the eastern Turkish province of Tunceli in 1948 and belongs to the Alevi religious minority. Kilicdaroglu broke a taboo with a video in which he publicly acknowledged it for the first time in April and achieved more than 100 million views. Kilicdaroglu studied economics in Ankara, and in the 1990s he headed the Social Insurance Institution. The image of the colorless bureaucrat still hangs on him to some extent.

But these days everything that has become dusty seems to have vanished. In the Erdogan stronghold of Ordu on the Black Sea, Kilicdaroglu draws thousands of listeners. People wave flags, stand at windows and have even climbed onto rooftops just to catch a glimpse of Kilicdaroglu. He jumps nimbly onto the stage for his 74 years, forms a heart with his index fingers and thumb and calls out: "Are you ready for change?" - "Evet" - "Yes", he replies.

18-year-old Yasin believes that the people are only now really getting to know Kilicdaroglu. Like all opposition politicians, this one has to come up with alternatives to reach voters. Erdogan controls most of the media. In April, the state broadcaster Erdogan gave about 32 hours of broadcasting time, while Kilicdaroglu only 32 minutes.

Yasin says he only now understands "what a decent and good politician" Kilicdaroglu is. Yasin is one of around five million first-time voters in Turkey - a hotly contested group. The biggest problem is the economy, he says. He can only dream of going on vacation to Germany, he doesn't even have enough money for a ticket to Istanbul. Critics accuse Kilicdaroglu of not being the kind of leader Turkey needs. President Erdogan, on the other hand, "stands up to the world," says a 58-year-old, who introduces himself as a self-confessed "Tayyip fan."

Kilicdaroglu presents himself as an alternative to Erdogan: a calm, instead of pithy demeanor, election campaign videos from a simple kitchen instead of the inauguration of major projects - and social reconciliation instead of polarization. The Turks have had enough of Erdogan and his leadership style, says Kilicdaroglu of the dpa and pleads for a policy guided by "reason". In the event of victory, the alliance intends to abolish the presidential system and promote rapid accession to the EU. In order to support the ailing economy, they also want to attract investors from Germany.

When it comes to refugees, Kilicdaroglu adopts a nationalist tone. He announced that he would voluntarily return the millions of Syrians in the country, knowing full well that the mood in the country had turned against the refugees. After the earthquake disaster on February 6, the opposition leader found direct words: He attacked Erdogan with sharp rhetoric and accused him of failure.

Kilicdaroglu is considered a good mediator with a willingness to compromise. His own CHP party, which was seen as elitist and nationalist, moved to the center under his leadership. The idea of ​​forging a six-party alliance against Erdogan is said to have come from him. When the alliance was on the verge of breaking up in early March over the question of who should run against Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu reacted calmly. Everything will fall into place, he said - and he was right. The pro-Kurdish HDP is not part of the six-party alliance, but is considered a kingmaker. She has since called on her voters to support Kilicdaroglu.

In his years of opposition to Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu was able to claim the mayoral elections of 2019 as a success for the first time: Erdogan's Islamic conservative AKP lost the majority in important cities such as Istanbul and Ankara at the time. The AKP annulled the elections in Istanbul - in the repeat, the opposition won by an even greater margin. When asked about concerns about manipulation, Kilicdaroglu refers to the vote at the time and says: "We will show them (the government) what democracy means, for the second time."