Kemal Kilicdaroglu called on Turkish Muslims to withhold their votes from the incumbent president
Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has declared it "a sin" to vote for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding that "sincere Muslims" would not commit such an act. Erdogan, a social conservative, is expected to defeat Kilicdaroglu in a runoff election on Sunday.
"Do not sin by voting for Erdogan," Kilicdaroglu urged the faithful during an appearance on Fox News' Turkish subsidiary on Saturday. "A sincere Muslim would not commit such a great sin," he added.
Kilicdaroglu's invocation of religion is out of character for the secularist politician. His CHP party supported a ban on the wearing of headscarves in public institutions until last year, and Kilicdaroglu himself follows a minority sect of Shia Islam - Alevism - rather than the mainstream Sunni Islam that around 90% of Trkiye's population follow.
Erdogan, by contrast, is an Islamist, and won the support of religious conservatives when he repealed separate headscarf bans in universities and government agencies from 2013 onwards. In the runup to this month's elections, Erdogan portrayed himself as a defender of traditional Islamic values against the more liberal Kilicdaroglu, whom he described as "an LGBT person" at a rally three weeks ago.
Some 50 Muslim scholars have endorsed Erdogan's reelection campaign, writing in a statement that his policies "have improved personal freedoms, eliminated hijab limitations, facilitated mosque construction, and encouraged the memorization of the Koran."
Erdogan defeated Kilicdaroglu in the first round of the Turkish presidential election on May 14, winning 49.5% of the vote to Kilicdaroglu's 44.9%. However, with neither candidate securing more than 50%, a second round of voting will take place on Sunday following the elimination of third candidate Sinan Ogan, who secured just over 5% in the first round.
Ogan has since endorsed Erdogan, and the incumbent is predicted to win by between two and four points, according to recent opinion polls.