Muharrem Ince, the leader of Turkey's Homeland Party and a former member of parliament for the Republican People's Party, has withdrawn from the presidential race three days into the dual presidential and parliamentary elections.
Ince, who was also the presidential candidate for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in 2018, has been seen as a potential threat to the opposition's chances of defeating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday's elections.
Speaking at his party's headquarters, Ince accused his opponents of running a smear campaign against him, referring to recent allegations on social media.
"They take it from a porn site and share it, and the Gülenists do it. Unfortunately, there are people who share this just because they oppose me. The Republic has never seen such a smear campaign," he remarked.
"The prosecutors and journalists of this country did not mention this. Where is the police when these fake images are being published? They have been assassinating my character for the last 45 days. The Republic of Turkey could not protect my reputation. A citizen, a presidential candidate's reputation could not be protected. These are blatant slanders.
"I have been resisting for 45 days, and this is the point they have come to; they say that I cannot withdraw because I received money from the [presidential] palace. To those who say that I received money from the palace and cannot withdraw, I say that I am not afraid of these traps, these fake receipts. I am withdrawing from the presidential candidacy."
Despite his withdrawal, Ince urged his supporters to vote for the Homeland Party in the parliamentary elections, saying that it was "important for the country's future."
What will happen now?
Article 12 of the of Presidential Election Law No. 6271 says, "In the first round, reductions that occur in the list until 5:00 pm on the voting day, starting from the publication of the definite candidate list in the Official Gazette, do not require any changes."
The CHP's representative at the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), Mehmet Hamdi Yakupoglu, told bianet that the reductions mentioned refer to resignation or death. "This is what the law says. This issue has come up for the first time, but there will be no change in the course of action. Muharrem Ince only announced his withdrawal to his own supporters. In short, Ince's withdrawal from the candidacy only leads to a political result. It does not have a legal consequence," said Yakupoglu.
To whom his supporters will vote for?
Kemal Özkiraz, the head of the Avrasya polling company, told bianet that Ince's withdrawal was due to the fact that he saw he would not receive the expected vote. His support was at around 1 percent in the latest polls, he said.
Özkiraz also predicted that nearly half of Ince's supporters would not vote and that the other half would likely vote for Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, the leader of the Nation Alliance, and Sinan Ogan, an outsider candidate nominated by the far-right Ancestral Alliance.
Despite Ince's withdrawal, the upcoming elections remain closely contested, with President Erdogan seeking to secure another term in office against a strong opposition challenge.
Source: English Bianet