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Erdoğan’s main rival claims evidence of Russian online interference ahead of Turkish elections: report

Kemal Kilicdaroglu

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the main challenger of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Friday his party has concrete proof of Russia’s responsibility for the spread of “deepfake” online content ahead Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, according to Reuters.

Kılıçdaroğlu, who currently has a slight lead over Erdoğan in the polls, called Russia’s alleged interference in Turkish affairs unacceptable during an interview with Reuters. However, he also stressed that if elected he would maintain good relations with Moscow.

Turkey, a NATO member state, relies heavily on Russia for energy imports. Sources have recently told Reuters that Ankara deferred a $600 million natural gas payment to Russia until 2024, highlighting the strengthening ties between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s claim of Russia’s involvement came in a tweet on Thursday. When asked about it, he told Reuters, “If we did not have it [concrete evidence], I wouldn’t have tweeted it.” However, he declined to provide further details on the alleged online content or the evidence his party has.

Russia has previously faced accusations of foreign election meddling, including in the United States, allegations it has consistently denied.

Kılıçdaroğlu, in his interview, further expressed confidence that he would “replace an authoritarian rule” and highlighted his intention to maintain a balance in relations with Russia. He also said he would push for peace between Russia and Ukraine, a move attempted unsuccessfully by Erdoğan in 2022.

Concerning NATO, Kılıçdaroğlu confirmed his support for the organization’s expansion, promising to maintain relations “within the same framework as we had in the past.”

Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized the exclusion of the foreign ministry from policy-making under Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), indicating he would pursue a peaceful, national-interest-oriented foreign policy.

According to Kılıçdaroğlu, the recent gains in Turkish assets show market confidence in his opposition alliance’s potential win on Sunday. “We already see that there is relief inside and outside the country as it has become clear that I will be elected as the president,” he said, adding that markets trust his alliance to rule with rational policies.

Kılıçdaroğlu also stressed the need for a trusted head of the central bank to bolster foreign investor confidence and promised to ensure the institution’s independence.

Sunday’s election holds significant implications for Turkey’s global standing, strategic alliances and economic direction, with Kılıçdaroğlu’s promise of a return to a more orthodox, free-market economic policy standing in contrast to Erdoğan’s vision of a heavily managed economy.

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