Sweden meddling in Turkish election, Ankara proclaims
Turkey accuses Sweden of election meddling, as it sees that Stockholm wants to influence the vote in Turkey to oust incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has accused Sweden of meddling in his country's elections after the runoff election was set for next Sunday.
Soylu, a member of the ruling AKP party, accused election monitors from the Swedish Oy ve Otesi (vote and Beyond) of putting pressure on voters at polling places.
"The Swedish state is funding this Oy ve Otesi association. Sending it money, but why? To interfere in the election in Turkey. It is so obvious and clear," the minister told a campaign rally in Istanbul, as quoted by the Aydinlik newspaper.
Soylu is renowned for his constant harsh criticism of the West, accusing the United States on Wednesday of trying to influence the election that has seen President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, go into a runoff election that will be held on Sunday.
Sweden has been pushing for NATO accession for months, and that requires unanimous approval from all of the alliance's members. Though it applied with Finland to join NATO, Sweden was left in the dust after Turkey was the sole country not to agree to its accession after approving Finland's bid.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin claimed that Finland still wants to join NATO with Sweden, noting that "we have sent a very clear signal and a very clear message to Turkey and also to Hungary... that we want to enter NATO together and this is in the interest of everyone."
Days later, Finland became a member of NATO and Stockholm was still seeking membership.
Ankara suspended negotiations with Sweden in outrage following rallies attacking the Turkish leadership in Stockholm and the burning of the holy Quran outside Turkey's embassy, but the talks resumed in Brussels on March 9.
Turkey has opposed Sweden's bid, accusing Stockholm of providing a safe haven for what it considers "terrorists", especially members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Erdogan emphasized on several occasions that the ratification of Sweden's membership in NATO will depend on Stockholm's future actions.
Erdogan closed the first round with 49.51% of the votes, with Kilicdaroglu placing second at 44.88%, followed by Sinan Ogan at 5.17%.
After no candidate won an absolute majority (50% +1) of the votes in the Turkish elections, the head of the nation's electoral authority announced that a runoff will take place on May 28, 2023.
In the upcoming second round, it is important to consider that Erdogan is expected to have an advantageous position over Kilicdaroglu due to his lead in the first round and the positive parliamentary results favoring the ruling coalition in contrast to the opposition.
The outcome came as a surprise and disappointment to the opposition, who had set high expectations for both the presidential and parliamentary elections. In the presidential race, the opposition was hopeful that even if they couldn't secure victory in the first round, Kilicdaroglu would at least receive the highest number of votes.