Main opposition CHP’s Baykal operating ‘like a virus,’ Erdoğan says
ANKARAPresident Erdoğan has slammed former Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal for proposing former President Abdullah Gül as the presidential candidate of the “no” campaigners, calling the veteran CHP lawmaker a “virus.”
“It is completely a virus operation; it is an action to create trouble. Mr. Baykal should quit playing these games and mind his own business,” Erdoğan said on May 3.
His comments came after Baykal proposed that Gül, who is a prominent founding member of the AKP and also served as a prime minister and minister in several AKP governments, be a presidential candidate for the “no” campaigns.
Gül offered little to no support for the “yes” side ahead of the April 16 referendum to enhance Erdoğan’s powers, leading many to speculate that he secretly voted “no.”
Urging current CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to commence a process to determine a presidential candidate for the CHP, Baykal said during an interview on May 1 that the party should focus on “finding a candidate who would represent the 49 percent of the voters who said ‘no’ to the constitutional amendments.”
The suggestion also stirred a debate within the opposition party, where Kılıçdaroğlu accused Baykal and dissident voices of harming the democratic movement.
“The 49 percent is not the CHP’s vote, it is all democratic segments. We will never allow an inner-party fight. We will discard the ones who have made a fight,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, slamming Baykal and the figures who commenced a discussion on a presidential candidate from the CHP on May 2.
Erdoğan also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu after the comments. “He [Kılıçdaroğlu] revealed what he represents clearly. He said that he cannot tolerate dissident voices. Contrarian voices always exist everywhere. What really matters is to be able to tolerate them,” Erdoğan said.
“These comments do not concern us. We will look after our own business,” Erdoğan said.
Barring presidents from their parties is ‘political murder’
Erdoğan also criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for arguing against a partisan presidency, saying the criticisms contradict the opposition party’s political history.
“My recommendation is that he should learn political history, especially the history of his party,” Erdoğan said, referring to the one-party regime in Turkey where CHP leaders served as presidents.
Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Erdoğan’s return to the ruling Justice and Development Party (CHP) for “ending the period of an impartial presidency.”
“A leader of a political party cannot be the president of 80 million [Turkish citizens]. That era is over. A leader of a party is only a president of those who voted for that party. He is respected in this manner,” Kılıçdaroğlu said May 2.
Likening the partisan presidency to a referee in a sports event, Kılıçdaroğlu said a “supporter cannot be a referee.”
Slamming Kılıçdaroğlu’s words, Erdoğan said the constitutional provision that barred presidents from having a party tie was a mistake.
“Whoever prepared that constitution and inserted that provision that states that presidents should resign from their party committed political murder,” he said.
“Now they are likening it to a referee in a sports event. The referee has a team in his heart. What official record can change that fact? The important thing is to manage the duty justly: to conduct the match justly and administer the country justly,” Erdoğan said.