Kemal Kilicdaroglu is a calm, mild-mannered candidate for the Turkish presidential elections. He wants to bring an end to the two-decade-old rule of President Recep T. Erdogan.
Many of his messages have been posted on Twitter in videos, which some observers call his "kitchen diary."
He sits with a Turkish "incebelli" teacup and outlines his campaign promises. He also announces the members of his possible coalition. Sometimes he just speaks to the public, welcoming them into his home.
These gestures contrast sharply with the elitist image that he and his former party had. Analysts claim that the president candidate has undergone a transformation in his image over the years to appeal to the voters of today. His messages are now aimed at the middle class in Turkey and the poor, constituencies that Erdogan has always been a champion of.
Erdogan's critics now see him as responsible for the economic turmoil that the country faces, in large part due to his failure to control the runaway inflation. Polls show that this issue is on the minds of many voters when they go to vote on Sunday. In April, the inflation rate in Turkey was 43%. This is down from a peak of 85% in October.
This is a great way to fuel campaigns against Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu has made it a central part of his campaign to restore the Turkish economy. In a Friday video, Kilicdaroglu stood in his kitchen, holding up bread, eggs and yogurt to remind viewers of how much the price had increased in a single year. In another four-second video, he said: "Today, you're poorer today than yesterday because of Erdogan."
Gulfem Saydan Sanver is a political communication specialist who works with Kilicdaroglu's center left Republican People's Party. He said that the kitchen had become a symbol of the candidate. "That he lives in a simple (life) and is dealing with the daily life problems of ordinary Turkish citizens."
She said, "He wanted to show Erdogan as the one who forgot about the problems of lower income families."
However, his use of Twitter as a means to reach out to the electorate was not a conscious decision. Most of the mainstream media in the country is controlled by government supporters, which has led the opposition to heavily rely on social media messages.
Experts say that when Kilicdaroglu took over the CHP, he had a problem with his image. His party was fiercely nationalistic and staunchly secular. It has now unified a number of disparate players in politics, is courting the Kurdish vote, and even welcomed defections from Erdogan’s Islamist Ak Party.
According to those who knew him, the career politician turned bureaucrat was perceived as elitist, and detached from the working-class as he assumed control of the CHP, similar to how the CHP was perceived. Erdogan's government took advantage of that.
Murat Somer is a professor of political science at Koc University, Istanbul. He said that the government had used the distinction between people and elites to discredit opposition figures by portraying them as members of a power elite. He told CNN that this created a "very hard and ossified negative image" which the opposition was unable to shake.
Mehmet Kari, CHP Member and Kilicdaroglu's longtime advisor, said that the home videos were hard to imagine when he was first starting his political career because his natural tendency is to keep private matters to himself.
He told CNN that he had learned over the course (of his)...political life, that public and private are closely intertwined. This is especially true if you're leading a group.
The soft-spoken manner he portrays from home may have some downsides.
Sanver said that the videos could be perceived as being too soft on some of the more difficult foreign policy issues facing Turkey, including relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin or the United States.
Erdogan was able to use personal relationships in order to show effective leadership on one of the most difficult issues in the world. He worked with the United Nations to help broker a grain deal between Ukraine and Russia. This helped prevent a food crisis worldwide.
Sanver, a CNN reporter who has met Kilicdaroglu during his campaign, said, "It was one of my criticisms." "He has to appear strong, because Erdogan is very strong."
She said that delivering some speeches from his office could have helped him establish a serious persona, while still showing he is a different leader to Erdogan.
Kilicdaroglu, in a country that is often dominated by ethnic and religious identity and exploited as a political tool by certain politicians, has taken swift action to deny his opponents ammunition.
In a video posted by him on Twitter last month from his office, he told the electorate he belonged to the Alevi faith, a minority group of the east Turkish region that has complained for years about the persecution they have suffered in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation. The video has been viewed 36 million times.
He said, "We won't talk about identity anymore; we'll talk about accomplishments." "We will not talk about divisions or differences, but instead we will discuss our commonality and dreams. Will you join the campaign to bring about this change?
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