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Turkey elections: Last minute withdrawal of candidate Ince raises chances for Kilicdaroglu first-round victory.

In a shocking move just three days ahead of the Turkish presidential elections, candidate Muharrem Ince announced his withdrawal, citing a defamation campaign against him by FETÖ

Muharrem Ince, head of the Homeland Party (MP) and one of the four candidates running for the Presidency in the May 14 elections, announced that he would withdraw from the candidacy at a news conference on Thursday. Ince’s announcement, only three days before the vote, came as a surprise for the electorate. However, he signaled an important revelation when news channels reported on an extraordinary news conference on Thursday.

A coughing Ince, who has been absent from campaign rallies for the past two days due to an illness, spoke at length about what he called a smear campaign against him through doctored images and videos, purportedly showing an extramarital affair, him riding in fancy cars and “fake documents” of donations from supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reported daily sabah.

Addressing reporters outside his party’s headquarters in the capital Ankara, 59-year-old Ince said he had not “witnessed what he witnessed in the past 45 days (since he announced his candidacy) in his past 45 years.” “I am (defamed) through fake documents, cars I don’t own, people I am not related to, videos I am not actually in, videos doctored through porn videos obtained from an Israeli porn website,” he said.

“This is the work of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), but unfortunately, opposition supporters shared it on social media. No politician in Türkiye ever witnessed such a defamation campaign,” he said. Ince accused the state of “failure to protect his reputation,” claiming prosecutors did not launch any investigation against the defamation.

Earlier on Thursday, prosecutors in Ankara announced that they had found a probe over the allegations of defamation.

Since he declared his candidacy, Ince has been under fire by supporters of his former Republican People’s Party (CHP), whose leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is running in the elections on May 14. Supporters of the opposition bloc of six parties often accuse him of “dividing the vote” while they were united to defeat President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some even accused him of being “a pawn of Erdoğan used to undermine the opposition.”

Ince and his party advocate an ideology adherent to the ideals of Republic of Türkiye founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. They split from the CHP, founded by Atatürk, claiming that it had strayed from Atatürk’s ambitions for a secular, patriotic, free Türkiye.

Most polls from last month put Ince in third place in a four-candidate race. According to the Supreme Election Council (YSK), his name will remain on the presidential ballot, and votes for him in overseas elections wrapped up earlier this week will still be counted. However, pundits believe that his withdrawal may play into the hands of Kılıçdaroğlu as it is unlikely that Ince’s supporters would endorse the other candidate Sinan Oğan, a staunch nationalist backed by the small ATA Alliance, daily sabah added, among others.

Turkish and international media now wonder how Ince’s withdrawal will affect the elections on Sunday.

In the latest published poll in Turkey results were the following:

Now many predict a winner already in the first round on May 14 and speculate a clear win for Kilicdaroglu and the end of Erdogan era.

Unless Ogan withdraws to boast the chances for Erdogan.

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