Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Turkish opposition leader expecting to replace Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as president, accused Russia of spreading conspiracies and deep fakes ahead of the election this weekend.
“Dear Russian friends,” Kılıçdaroğlu wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “You are behind the montages, conspiracies, deep fakes and tapes that were exposed in this country yesterday. If you want our friendship after May 15, get your hands off the Turkish state. We are still in favor of cooperation and friendship.”
The statements came hours after another opposition contender, Muharrem İnce, declared he was pulling out of the presidential race.
“I’m withdrawing from the race. I am doing this for my homeland,” İnce said at a press conference, according to Bloomberg. The Ankara public prosecutor’s office earlier stated it opened an inquiry after a sex tape allegedly showing İnce emerged on social media.
On May 14, 2023, the Turkish people will choose their next president. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces economist and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Kılıçdaroğlu is polling ahead of Erdoğan, who is facing the most challenging reelection battle of his 20-year rule.
According to the latest polls, Kılıçdaroğlu can win in the first round with 50%, while Erdoğan has the support of 46% of voters.
If both of them go to the second round, Kılıçdaroğlu will win with 51% against 49%, the polls show.