Just three days before what has been called the most important election in recent Turkish history, Muharrem Ince of the Homeland Party announced on Thursday that he was withdrawing from the race for president.
This withdrawal is seen as widely beneficial to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most prominent opponent.
Ince stated that he was dropping out of the election because of a “smear campaign” against him. An online video purported to show him performing intercourse with an unnamed lady led to his departure. However, the video was quickly debunked as a forgery.
Ince said that Turkey was unable to safeguard his good name.
The 59-year-old leader, who had labeled his own Homeland Party as a “third way,” was the only candidate without any coalition behind him.
The Homeland Party holds crucial importance for Turkey’s political destiny.
The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, stands to gain support from his Ince’s departure. Parties inside and outside the coalition have endorsed Kilicdaroglu.
Ince’s support was already beginning to erode, and Kilicdaroglu’s polling advantage reflected this.
Ince, who defected from the CHP to create the Homeland Party in 2021, has been accused of receiving funding from the “palace” and standing in the election to divide the opposition’s support for Erdogan’s advantage. On Wednesday, he canceled rallies in western Turkey, citing health concerns.
He held a brief news conference outside his party offices in Ankara and declared that a slander like this had never been seen before in Turkey. He said, “I don’t worry about things like that. I am declining to be a candidate. I’m doing it for the sake of my country.”
Ince did not endorse any other candidates in the next parliamentary election and instead urged voters to support his party.
Ince and the other three candidates will still appear on the ballots.
Erdogan is running for a third term after two decades in power.