A candidate in Turkey’s presidential election has announced that he is withdrawing from the race in a move that is likely to bolster President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main challenger.
Muharrem Ince, the leader of the centre-left Homeland Party, was one of four contenders running for president in the May 14 election.
He has faced intense criticism for splintering the votes of the six-party Nation Alliance, which has united behind the candidacy of main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and of possibly forcing the presidential race into a second round.
“I am withdrawing from the race,” Mr Ince told reporters. “I am doing this for my country.”
Mr Ince said the Homeland Party, which he formed in 2021, would still run in the parliamentary elections, and he called for votes for the party “from each household”.
The 58-year-old former physics teacher ran against Mr Erdogan in presidential elections in 2018 under the ticket of Mr Kilicdaroglu’s main opposition party, CHP. He garnered around 30% of the votes but later broke away from the party.
The firebrand politician did not say he was dropping out in favour of Mr Kilicdaroglu but analysts said his withdrawal is likely to benefit the Nation Alliance.
Nation Alliance members welcomed Mr Ince’s decision to step down.
“God willing, our nation will take the necessary step in the days ahead so that we will (succeed) in the first round,” said Gultekin Uysal, leader of the centre-right Democrat Party.
“They will have no excuses if they lose the election,” Mr Ince said, in an apparent reference to Kilicdaroglu.