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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reaching out to a religious minority that could prove key to bolstering wider political support ahead of presidential elections in mid-2023.
Erdogan established a body to regulate affairs of the Alevi religious minority, according to a decree published in Turkey's Official Gazette on Wednesday. Alevis, who are estimated to make up about one-fifth of Turkey's 85 million population, regularly complain of discrimination and tend to support Erdogan's secular rivals.
With polls showing his alliance trailing the opposition, Erdogan needs to mobilize every vote he can ahead of elections only a few months from now.
During the first years of the ruling AK Party government, he had a wider base of support that included some Alevi leaders, Kurdish nationalists and political liberals. But Erdogan's alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party has narrowed his room for maneuver, often forcing the president to appease Islamists and ultranationalists at the expense of others.
The announcement in the gazette said the new body will meet the needs of Alevi houses of worship and support research on Alevi culture, with its chairman picked by Erdogan. Alevis are members of an offshoot of Shiite Islam and are wary of the political Islam championed by Erdogan and his party in the Sunni-majority country.
Some Alevis have criticized the move to set up the body. A group held a protest in Ankara on Tuesday where it called for the government to go a step further and give their houses of worship the same official status as mosques.
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