Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused the Turkish government on Wednesday of allowing 10 million migrants to enter the country illegally, turning nationalistically in his speech ahead of the May 28 run-off.
Kılıçdaroğlu, the candidate of the six-party opposition alliance, came next to Erdoğan in the first round of the presidential elections that took place on Sunday, storming opinion polls that expected him to advance.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s latest comments came after his party said it had lodged complaints about suspected irregularities in thousands of ballot boxes in Sunday’s historic elections.
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist allies won a strong parliamentary majority.
In the presidential election, the president garnered just under the 50% threshold needed to win in the first round.
Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), received 44.9% in what was seen as the biggest electoral challenge to Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.
Candidate Sinan Oğan came third, with 5.17%.
Both Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu are expected to seek his support in the negotiations this week.
“We won’t abandon our homeland to this mentality that allowed the arrival of ten million illegal immigrants among us,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a video on Twitter on Wednesday.
He warned that the number of immigrants could reach 30 million.
Kılıçdaroğlu urged voters “who love their country to go to the polls”.
Kılıçdaroğlu didn’t provide any evidence of the number of immigrants.
Türkiye hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, about four million, according to official figures.
The Turkish authorities arrested about 50,600 of these migrants this year until May 11, after arresting about 285,000 in 2022, according to Interior Ministry data.
The video clip of Kılıçdaroğlu on Twitter suggests that his campaign is moving away from its earlier, more moderate stance.
He may also win over Oğan’s supporters, who have campaigned to return migrants to where they came from, including some 3.6 million Syrians who fled the war in the south.
Erdoğan, currently leading the race, says only he can ensure stability in Türkiye, a NATO ally, as it grapples with a crisis of high living costs, soaring inflation and the impact of devastating earthquakes in February.
Analysts said Erdoğan’s insistence that the opposition was backed by Kurdish militants, using fabricated videos without any evidence, was well received by his voter base, outweighing their economic concerns.
His message was a reference to the pro-Kurdish Green Left party, which backed Kılıçdaroğlu but wasn’t part of the six-party opposition alliance.
The Green Left Party, the third largest party in the new parliament after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and Kılıçdaroğlu’s Republican People’s Party, denies links to the Kurdish militants.
In the video posted on Wednesday, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also accused Erdogan of cooperating with a network that Ankara accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.
Türkiye classifies the network in question as a terrorist organization.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Wednesday that it had submitted complaints about suspected irregularities in thousands of ballot boxes during the elections, but party officials said the complaints wouldn’t change the outcome of the overall election.