U.S. Is Interfering In Türkiye’s Elections, Says Interior Minister

Turkey Elections

The U.S. is meddling in Türkiye’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, Ankara’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claimed on Friday.

Speaking to CNN Turk, Soylu weighed in on the decision by presidential candidate Muharrem Ince, who leads the opposition Homeland Party, to drop out of the race on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s vote.

Ince attributed the withdrawal to a “slander campaign,” which involved the release of an alleged sex tape which he dismissed as fake.

The withdrawal of Ince came amid fears among opposition figures that his candidacy could damage the electoral chances of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the CHP party chairman, who has emerged as the main rival to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“America has been interfering in this election from the very beginning. Biden said that we were not able to do this with a coup in 2016. This time we will do it with an election, not a coup,” Soylu claimed.

“That is basic logic. If we pull Ince we will get the votes that went to him,” he noted.

The minister went on to claim that Ince “was attacked in this election from outside. It is clear who produced it. The perpetrator is the Gulen movement and the U.S.,” Soylu added.

Turkish officials have insisted that the unsuccessful attempt to remove the Erdogan government from office in July 2016 was orchestrated by cleric Fethullah Gulen and his supporters. The failed coup, which resulted in thousands of arrests, also significantly strained U.S.-Türkiye relations as Ankara slammed Washington for harboring Gulen.

Türkiye’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14. The race for the presidency is expected to largely be a battle between Erdogan and his main rival Kilicdaroglu. While the incumbent has pursued more conservative and independent policies, steering his country away from integration with the EU and fostering close ties with Russia, Kilicdaroglu champions a more Western-aligned approach.

Recent polls show the two locked in a close race. If neither of the candidates garners more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a run-off will be held on May 28.

In a 2020 interview to the New York Times, prior to being elected president, Biden described Erdogan as an “autocrat.” Washington should be “taking a very different approach to him now, making it clear that we support opposition leadership,” he added at the time, citing Erdogan’s crackdown on Kurds and his cooperation with Russia.

Erdogan Scolds Rival Over ‘Russian Interference’ Claim

Another media report said:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu for claiming without evidence that Moscow is interfering in Türkiye’s upcoming elections. Erdogan claimed that the West, and not Russia, is “manipulating the elections in Turkiye.”

“Kilicdaroglu said that Russia is manipulating the elections in Turkiye. Shame on you!” Erdogan told a crowd of supporters in Istanbul on Friday.

In a Twitter post a day earlier, Kilicdaroglu accused the country’s “Russian friends” of being “behind the montages, conspiracies, deep fakes and tapes that were exposed in this country yesterday.”

“Get your hands off the Turkish state,” Kilicdaroglu warned the supposed Russian meddlers.

Kilicdaroglu was likely referring to the publication of a video showing another presidential candidate, Muharrem Ince, allegedly engaging in an extramarital affair. Ince dropped out of the race on Thursday, blaming followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose political movement Ankara claims orchestrated a failed coup in 2016.

There is zero evidence linking Russia with the publication or production of the tape, and the Kremlin said that it “firmly rejects” Kilicdaroglu’s claims.

“If I say ‘America is manipulating the elections in Turkiye, Germany is manipulating it, France is manipulating it, England is manipulating it’, what would you say?” Erdogan continued, addressing his remarks to Kilicdaroglu.

While Erdogan did not attempt to tie the leak of Ince’s sex tape with any of the Western countries he mentioned, his interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, did. “It is clear who produced it,” he told CNN Turk earlier on Friday. “The perpetrator is the Gulen movement and the U.S.”

Erdogan accused Western media outlets of trying to shift public opinion in Türkiye against him.

“What do all the magazines say on their covers? ‘Erdogan must go.’ Those published in Germany, France and England say so,” he said at Friday’s rally. “How do you put these words on the covers of these magazines? It is not you, not you, the West! It is my nation that will decide.”

This week’s edition of The Economist features the slogans “Erdogan must go” and “save democracy” on its cover, while France’s Le Point and L’Express magazines also featured anti-Erdogan covers.

Türkiye’s presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on Sunday. Recent polling shows Erdogan – a social conservative who steered his country away from integration with the EU – and Kilicdaroglu – a centrist who favors realignment with the West – within single digits of each other.

Moscow Responds To Claims Russia Interfering In Turkish Election

Another media report said:

Moscow has rejected claims made by Turkish opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu that Russian operatives were interfering in the country’s presidential race.

Russia has a general policy of not meddling in other nations’ elections and would certainly not do so in Türkiye, a nation whose friendship Moscow treasures and whose foreign policy it considers “very responsible, sovereign and thought-out,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

“We firmly reject such statements,” the Russian official added. “If somebody provided Mr. Kilicdaroglu with such information, they are liars.”

The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) made the allegations on Twitter this week, without explaining what materials he was referring to. Kilicdaroglu, who is currently polling slightly ahead of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged Moscow to “get its hands off Türkiye,” although he did reiterate his wish for the countries to have positive bilateral relations. The presidential election is set to take place on Sunday.

Erdogan Toprak, a close aide to Kilicdaroglu, told Turkish media that the CHP had monitored “rumors” of Russian interference, which he hoped were not true.

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