Jun 08 2018

President Erdoğan’s day of strange comments

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan astonished the public with with a series of peculiar and offbeat comments during rallies and public events on Thursday, as the country gears up for presidential and parliamentary elections on Jun. 24.

Early that afternoon, Erdoğan delivered a speech at the ground breaking event for a new hospital in the southern city of Tarsus. Erdoğan told the audience that communists in Turkey had pushed for the privatisation of the Bosphorus bridge, the first straddling the Boshporus straits in Istanbul, during the 1980s. 

“Remember, Süleyman Demirel built the first bridge. What were the communists saying at that time? They were saying ‘we are going to sell this bridge’. And later Özal told them that he would not allow them to sell. What happened? What are you selling? This nation will bury you in your graves,” Erdoğan said. 

However, for the people of Turkey, the debate on the privatisation of the Bosphorus bridge was something well remembered as one of the symbols of Turkey’s transition to a liberal economy after the 1980 coup.

Right before the first elections were held after the coup, and while nearly all communists in Turkey were in jails, the heads of political parties running in the election discussed the issue during a joint television program - a tradition in Turkey until Erdoğan came to power.

During the program, the head of the Motherland Party, Turgut Özal, who Erdoğan counts as an ideological predecessor, explained his plans to privatise the Bosphorus bridge. His opponent, social democrat Necdet Calp countered the idea and the discussion became heated, with Calp shouting at Özal that he would not allow him to sell the bridge.

Following that event, Erdoğan went to the neighbouring city of Mersin for another mass rally. Here, he promised the people of Mersin that his next government would connect the railway linking Mersin and Silifke with the country's high-speed railway network. However, as social media users quickly pointed out, there is no railway between Mersin and Silifke.

Later in the evening, Erdoğan broke his fast with an iftar dinner organised at his presidential palace for mukhtars (neighbourhood heads) from around the country.  During his speech, Erdoğan told the assembled mukhtars that he had attended school in a class of 75 pupils under the single-party rule of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the AKP's main rivals in the upcoming elections. 

However, Erdoğan was born in 1954. The single-party rule of the CHP began in 1923 with the formal establishment of the Turkish Republic and the first multi-party elections were held in 1946. The single-party period effectively ended in 1950, four years before Erdoğan was born, after the right-wing Democrat Party and its leader Adnan Menderes won the elections.

Erdoğan went to school after the 1960 coup, when the right-wing Justice Party was running the country.

After his comments, some Twitter users posted photos of Erdoğan’s primary school from the same period to show that classrooms were not over-crowded at the time.

At the end of the day, Erdoğan participated in a live interview broadcast by all television channels and newspapers of the Demirören Group, a government-affiliated business that purchased much of its impressive media portfolio from Doğan Media in March.

During the television program, one of the journalists needed to prompt Erdoğan a few times, as he had difficulty in remembering what he was to say. In one of thse instances, Erdoğan had difficulty in remembering the name of the Tarsus city, where he had delivered a speech earlier in the day. 

During the same interview, Erdoğan made yet another easily refuted claim, saying that Magnetic Resonance Imaging and tomography had been unknown in Turkey before the AKP's reign.

Both medical technologies were widely available in Turkey when the AKP came to power in 2002, and MRI has been in use in the country since 1989.

"When we came to power, we had broken down old ambulances. The ambulances were drawn by dogs," said the president in another extraordinary statement.

To the best of Ahval's knowledge, no evidence of dog-drawn ambulances in Turkey has yet been uncovered.