Turkish opposition presidential candidate calls Erdoğan a “white Turk”.

The main opposition candidate in Turkey’s June 24 presidential election called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a “white Turk”, a pejorative term used to describe the Westernised, secular elite, Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Monday.

The June 24 elections mark a turning point in Turkish democracy from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system of government. Erdoğan, in power since 2003, is ahead in opinion polls with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce in second place.

“Who is my rival? My rival is a White Turk. A White Turk who is well-connected, rich and lives in a palace,” İnce said a weekend rally in Istanbul.

“White Turks” are often contrasted with “black Turks” - denoting Turkey’s conservative and pious masses that Erdoğan’s and his party say they champion.

İnce expanded on his comments, mocking Erdoğan’s penchant for expensive white tea in contrast to his own preference for black tea.

A range of opposition candidates are hoping to stop Erdoğan winning more than 50 percent of the vote on June 24 and force the president into a second-round run-off election two weeks later.

İnce was also critical of Erdoğan’s pledge to open free coffee shops in every district, “Look at his promises. He pledges to build stadiums, parks and coffee shops with books. He says you will eat cake there for free. I, on the other hand, am telling you that I will find jobs for our children. I will build factories. I will educate our children well.” 

İnce warned there was an economic crisis on the way and criticised the economic management of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The party, he said, was “bankrupting our country. The truck is about to hit the wall”.

“We have to change this tired man,” he said, in reference to Erdoğan, whilst promising he would provide steadier economic management should he win the election.

“We have a great cadre. I will bring the ship safely to shore. You should not worry,” İnce said. “I will teach you how to smile again. I pledge peace and tranquillity. I promise happiness, peace, prosperity, jobs, bread, a Turkey that is not robbed.”