In Turkey, politics is advanced, delicate and divisive – and if you wish to know what that appears like, there is no higher place to witness it than a market stall within the bustling metropolis of Bursa.
We’re right here asking individuals about Sunday’s election, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan will search to increase his two-decade-long grip on energy. And right here, among the many colors and fragrances of the meals stalls, many like him.
“He is a good leader, I’ll be voting for him,” says one man. Another tells me he would vote for Mr Erdogan 10 million instances over, if solely he may. A 3rd says Mr Erdogan has made Turkey into a terrific nation and stood as much as America.
It’s all smiles till we ask one younger man, who admits he is sad with the financial system, that costs are rising too quick, and that he’ll vote for another person. No sooner are the phrases out of his mouth than a person rushes as much as us and begins shouting. The scent of dissent has proved flamable. The ambiance had modified.
We are, it appears, now responsible of meddling the place we do not belong. “We have a good leader, we don’t need anyone different,” the person says. He tells us we’re frightening hassle after which, stridently, he orders us to go away. Alongside him, a girl can be giving us an earful. Foreign journalists, asking questions.
In this nation, Mr Erdogan is the nice divider. You can’t be detached about him, and nor are you able to ignore him. His presence is in every single place, for he has personally reshaped the financial system, the political system, the judiciary and the media. And, for good measure, there are posters of him in all places.
But his maintain on energy could also be weakening. On Sunday, Turkey will go to the polls to elect a brand new president, in addition to vote for its parliament. It will likely be shut however Mr Erdogan, after 20 years in cost, is now going through the numerous risk of a defeat that might have seismic repercussions.
Pitched towards him is a gaggle of opposition events who’ve coalesced round one single aspiration – to dump Erdogan from energy. And main that coalition is Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
That’s why we’re in Bursa – to fulfill Mr Kilicdaroglu. The man who needs to reshape Turkey.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Who is Turkey’s president?
The polar reverse of Erdogan
Mr Kilicdaroglu is discovering worldwide fame on the age of 74. He positions himself because the polar reverse of Mr Erdogan – a quiet man who seeks consensus, so the story goes, quite than an abrasive bombast.
We meet within the relative peace of his bus. Through the window, he can see 1000’s of individuals gathering to listen to him communicate and holding posters of his face. We shake fingers and sit down. Mr Kilicdaroglu, who doesn’t communicate English, is smiling broadly.
I level to the individuals gathering outdoors. Is expectation turning into a burden?
“I am not the only one who feels the pressure,” he replies. “If hundreds and thousands of people have come together, it is to react to the pressure because there are serious problems in the economy and these problems make society restless.”
But does he actually wish to be president, or does he merely wish to thwart Mr Erdogan, I ponder.
“There is real damage inflicted on the founding pillars of the country,” he insists. “The main pillars of democracy, which are the legislature, the judiciary and the executive, are also seriously damaged. We want to fix this. I want to be the president and I really want to make Turkey a democratic country.”
He says that, if elected, he’ll spend a month compiling a “damage report” on his nation. “We do not know what our earnings are, what our costs are, what our liabilities are.” It is an image of misrule that he paints repeatedly – of a rustic that has turn out to be subsidiary to the pursuits of its chief.
Even if he does win, it will likely be by a slender margin. Mr Erdogan stays widespread, typically wildly so, with many on this nation, significantly those that suppose Mr Kilicdaroglu is beguiled by the secular nations of the West.
So, after twenty years when his nation has turn out to be ever extra distanced from Europe, Britain and America, how does Mr Kilicdaroglu plan to redefine Turkey’s place on the earth? It is the query that has bothered leaders and diplomats for months now.
“We want to be a part of the West and the civilized world,” he tells me. “We need democracy in our nation. We don’t want an authoritarian management, we wish freedom. Young individuals and ladies are fed up, in addition they need freedom.
“Therefore, we will be implementing all the democratic rules of the European Union to our country. Our relationship with the West will develop in a democratic way. Our ties will be even stronger. We will maintain our relations with Russia as they were in the past because many Turkish businessmen have investments there. But we are against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and we do not find it acceptable.”
I ask him if Turkey would change its stance on NATO if he wins – would he reverse Mr Erdogan’s objections and permit Sweden to hitch? “It will happen,” comes the reply.
Erdogan ‘is already enjoying soiled methods’
The election is now inside touching distance. There are persistent rumours of Mr Erdogan utilizing the equipment of the state to both manipulate the outcome or intimidate voters. So is Mr Kilicdaroglu frightened about “dirty tricks”?
“He is already playing dirty tricks. I have never seen a man do this as much as he does in my life. He distorts the facts and slanders. But whatever he does, the people will choose me.” He does not accuse him of corruption however says Mr Erdogan “is very fond of money”.
The newest polls have Mr Kilicdaroglu predicted to win round half the vote, probably sufficient – simply – to offer him an outright victory within the first spherical.
‘I would be the president for all of Turkey’
It can be a rare outcome, but additionally a towering problem – to unite his nation, restore the financial system, restore the buildings of democracy, reconnect with bruised allies and someway bridge the chasm to Mr Erdogan’s voters.
“I will be the president for all of Turkey, for all 85 million people,” he says. But what of those that do not like him, I ask. “If there is a good leadership, no looking down on people, and you treat all citizens equally, and if you bring justice to all who seek justice, if the state is transparent, if you’re able to account for all the taxes collected, they will see what a good leader is, they will come to our side.”
Our time is up. An enormous crowd waits for him and, shortly, he’ll sure on to the stage and make his acquainted signal – a coronary heart form made along with his two fingers. But for the second, he merely thanks us and shakes fingers. “Will you win on Sunday?” I ask, as we stroll. “Oh yes,” comes the reply. And he smiles, broadly.