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Turkey Elections: A Kilicdaroglu election win could overhaul Syria policy

The opposition leader is seen as someone who would have more clout at the negotiating table with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, especially on migration and security issues in northern Syria.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu
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If Kemal Kilicdaroglu beats incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the May 14 general elections, as many polls currently project, it would likely mark a strategic shift in Turkey’s policy toward Syria and relations between Ankara and the Bashar al-Assad government, experts tell Al-Monitor. 

Kilicdaroglu, a veteran politician who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has a narrow lead in the opinion polls against Erdogan, who faces his toughest re-election challenge since he came to power amid an economic crisis that has been worsened by deadly earthquakes. 

The 74-year-old former civil servant has been an outspoken critic of Erdogan’s policy in Syria, which has recently been welcomed back into the diplomatic fold after years of isolation by many Arab countries over its civil war. More than half a million have been killed in the 12-year conflict. 

Imdat Oner, a policy analyst at the Jack D. Gordon Institute, told Al-Monitor that Turkey's Syria policy will change under Kilicdaroglu. “Turkey’s Syria policy would largely depend on dialogue and diplomacy with Assad,” he said. “The opposition aims to partially withdraw from Syria to address the security situation and stabilize the region while ensuring the safety of border areas. This move will enable them to fulfill one of their key campaign promises, which is the return of Syrian refugees within two years.”

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