Erdogan attacks LGBTQ+ community ahead of crucial vote

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday launched a new attack against Turkey’s LGBTQ community in a bid to rally his conservative voters in the run-up to tight May 14 polls.

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The longest-serving leader of Turkey has been actively campaigning after recovering from a recent health scare. He is currently in a tight race with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a secular Marxist politician, in what is considered one of Turkey’s most crucial elections since the Ottoman era. Erdogan’s campaign has been affected by the government’s criticized reaction to the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey’s southeast in February, which claimed over 50,000 lives. As a result, he has been targeting liberal causes, including LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, and has also been critical of the West.

During a rally in Giresun, Erdogan stated that he was against the LGBTQ+ community. He has also been involved in a cultural conflict in Turkey, which was triggered by the 10-month suspended sentence given to one of Turkey’s top pop musicians for making jokes about religious schools. Erdogan, who is a product of one of these institutions, has been trying to unify the masses by whipping up perpetual culture wars, while also ostracizing the LGBTQ+ community by describing them as polluted by “viruses” and “perverts.”

On the other hand, Kilicdaroglu and his six-party alliance have promised to mend rifts between Turkey’s numerous religious and ethnic groups and bring economic stability back to Turkey. They have also promised to repeal the divisive rule that makes it illegal to insult the president and to loosen regulations on the use of social media.

Voter participation is critical in Turkey’s current deeply divided state. After being in power for twenty years, only a small fraction of the electorate is still undecided about Erdogan. However, Turkey’s hardline Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has been leading government efforts to discredit Kilicdaroglu as a US-backed agent planning a “political coup” on election day. Soylu believes that undecided voters will choose the “stability” of re-electing the administration they are familiar with.