“She-wolf” Turkish presidential candidate softens

Meral Akşener, a Turkish presidential candidate known by her supporters as “asena”, or she-wolf, is throwing off some of her nationalist past in order to broaden her appeal among the electorate, Kareem Shaheen wrote for UAE-based newspaper The National.

“The daughter of immigrants who arrived in Turkey in the 1920s after the population exchanges with Greece following the War of Independence, Ms. Akşener presided over the Interior Ministry for eight months from November 1996, during some of the worst human rights abuses in Turkey's Kurdish regions,” Shaheen wrote.

“But she has distanced herself from the abuses that took place under her leadership and sought to position her İyi (Good) Party as distinct from the right-wing nationalist movements sweeping Europe and the United States,” he said, pointing out that Akşener had held several rallies in Kurdish-majority areas and called for the release of jailed pro-Kurdish party leader and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş.

Akşener was now calling for fair trials and an independent judiciary, Shaheen said, and has pledged to fight corruption and improve the economy.

However, he said, she was finding it extremely difficult to get any coverage from the mainstream media, which is now 90 percent controlled by allies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Mr Erdoğan chooses his own competitors, and places them in a certain framework,” Akşener said. “I don’t fit that profile - my gender, my experience, my age … He would be unable to bring himself to compete with a woman (because of) his ego.”