Skip to main content

Turkey Elections: Erdogan rival ups nationalist tone, vows to send refugees home

Casting for nationalist votes in the presidential election runoff, opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu takes a sharpened tone on refugees. 
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 May 18, 2023.

IZMIR, Turkey — With a little over a week to go until a crucial runoff to determine Turkey’s next president, opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu held his first presser since the elections, striking a nationalist tone by pledging to send refugees home immediately upon taking power.

In an unusually hawkish speech Thursday, Kilicdaroglu targeted incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who led the first round of Turkey’s nail-biter presidential polls by 5% on May 14, for allowing the unregulated influx of refugees and asylum seekers. 

“I am declaring hereby, I will send all refugees back home as soon as I am elected as president, period,” said Kilicdaroglu, claiming that the present government’s open-border policy would bring “10 million refugees more” if they were reelected. 

“Erdogan, you have neither protected this country’s honor nor its borders. You have brought 10 million refugees to this country. Like this wasn't enough, you sold the citizenship of the Republic of Turkey to import votes; you turned Turks into refugees in their own country,” Kilicdaroglu told a cheering crowd at his party headquarters in Ankara, where he pushed his new campaign slogan, #MakeUpYourMind.  

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.