May 08 2018

Turkey’s Erdoğan says main opposition’s candidate a puppet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after 16 years in power, opposition parties had yet to come up with a worthy candidate to face him in presidential elections on June 24.

Erdoğan, seeking to retain office and take over sweeping new executive powers that come into force after the polls, said the leftist main opposition candidate Muharrem İnce was a puppet whose strings were pulled by his party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

“Who are we to deal with? This figure at the end of the stick, or the person holding the stick?” Erdoğan asked during a speech to his parliamentary party.

The president said Kılıçdaroğlu should have stood in the election himself, but did not do so as defeat might mean him losing the leadership of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), a position he has held since 2010 since when his party has lost three parliamentary elections, two referendums and one presidential election.

“For some reason he didn’t wish to be the CHP’s presidential candidate,” Erdoğan said. “I guess party leadership is more alluring to him than leading our country.”

İnce, a long-time vocal critic of Erdoğan, has pledged that, if elected, he would transform the newly built, 1,000-room Presidential Palace in Ankara into a university for Turkey’s brightest students.

“One has his eyes the Presidential Palace, another the state’s jets, and one the new political system,” Erdoğan said, referring to his opponents.

“Do you have any projects that you can share with the Turkish people?” Erdoğan asked. “Should the leading opposition, that’s been waiting for 16 years to come to power, not have better policies?”

Erdoğan highlighted the roads, buildings, bridges and hydroelectric power stations that have marked the rule of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) that came to power in 2002.

The president said the CHP had managed to surprise him by having 15 of its members of parliament join the new nationalist opposition Good Party so that it could field candidates in the polls. 

Erdoğan also took aim at 300 French writers and politicians who wrote in a manifesto that certain verses should be removed from the Quran.

“I wonder if they have ever read the Bible or the Torah in their lives? If they had, I’m sure they would have wanted the Bible to be banned, too. And when we warn certain Western countries about hatred of Islam and Turkey, we get a bad reputation,” Erdoğan said.

“Who are you to be attacking what is sacred to us?” he quipped.