Erdogan made the remarks at a massive election rally in the southern Turkish province of Antalya on Tuesday, where thousands of supporters of the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gathered.
“They just want to push Turkey into a pit from which it will not be able to recover for at least half a century, with its politics, economy, defense, diplomacy, and plunge it into a swamp,” Erdogan said.
He added this is not the first time that Turkey is exposed to ideological infighting, sectarian and ethnic strife, implying that foreign powers are endorsing the opposition bloc.
“They want to divide the country into camps again by deepening the separation of origin and sect, and turn brother against brother,” Erdogan said, adding, “They want to hand over the country to terrorist groups controlled by imperialists.”
“In short, their problem is not with us, but with Turkey, the Turkish nation, and Turkey’s gains,” he maintained.
The six-party opposition bloc, led by presidential candidate and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıcdaroglu, aims to reverse many of Erdogan’s policies on foreign affairs, economy, and civil rights.
The bloc has already unveiled plans to assign heads of six parties as vice presidents of Kemal Kilicdaroglu if they win the elections.
On Sunday, Erdogan accused Kilicdaroglu, his main rival, of cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as he visited the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul.
The PKK – designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union – has been waging a decades-long armed insurgency against Ankara for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority in the Turkish southeast.
Meanwhile, Kilicdaroglu has claimed that he will win in the first round of the upcoming presidential and general elections on May 14 by winning 60% of the votes.
“I will win in the first round with 60% of the votes. And I will be elected as the 13th president of (Turkey) on May 14. This will not extend to the second round and will end in the first round,” he said during an interview with Turkish daily newspaper, Sozcu.
Kilicdaroglu also claimed that the coalition will also win a majority in parliament, and promised to fight corruption and remove corrupt officials.
Turkey is to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 14 May, a month ahead of schedule.
Erdogan, 69, has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and later as president. He is facing criticisms over Turkey’s double-digit inflation and his government’s response to February’s devastating earthquake.
Kilicdaroglu has led Turkey’s main opposition party, the People’s Republic Party (CHP), for 13 years.
The 74-year-old former civil servant has promised to focus on reviving Turkey’s ailing economy and repairing democracy, saying that the nation “cannot afford to lose another five years” to Erdogan.
Most opinion polls have given Kilicdaroglu a slight lead.
Any candidate that can secure more than half the presidential vote on 14 May is the outright winner. Failing that, the race goes to a run-off two weeks later.
Many believe the May 14 elections will be intense, as the winner will not only rule Turkey but will also decide the future of the country for many years to come, including its foreign policy and economic strategy.