Turkish PM, main opposition leader engage in ‘dictator’ joust
After PM Erdoğan (R) directly addressed him, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu (C), sitting right next to TOBB head Hisarcıklıoğlu (L) smiled bitterly.An exchange of epithets between Turkey’s prime minister and the main opposition leader created more than just a heated debate yesterday when the pair addressed a grand gathering of representatives of Turkey’s private sector and entrepreneurs.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first took the floor to address members of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) for its 70th General Assembly meeting.
Erdoğan’s fury against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who has frequently spoken about the prime minister’s dictatorial tendencies, was obvious, as he directly addressed him while he was sitting in the first row alongside TOBB President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu.
“There are persons who use the phrase ‘dictator and they are sitting in front of me at this moment. If Tayyip Erdoğan were a dictator, how could you hang around in squares [for political rallies]?” Erdoğan said, arguing that the CHP leader’s manner would only serve to harm the “serenity of the nation.”
“In addition to this feeling of social serenity and justice, all of these things are of course annoying our business world,” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister also vowed that all those responsible for last week’s Soma mine disaster would be brought to justice. “Tayyip Erdoğan believes in fate,” he said, referring to himself in the third person, while stressing that submission to God’s will did not mean ignoring negligence.
Kılıçdaroğlu was as furious as Erdoğan when he subsequently took the stage. In addition to criticizing Erdoğan for summarily leaving the meeting, he also severely criticized TOBB’s management for “violating the protocol rules.”
“If TOBB’s directors are afraid, they should not be; there is a republic and democracy in this country,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “He [Erdoğan] spoke and left. Why doesn’t he listen to me? Because he has no courage for it,” he added.
The CHP leader slammed the government for talking about taking precautions after the deaths of 301 miners.
“They’re already gone. And if 301 people die, there must be someone politically responsible,” he said, noting the case of a Japanese mayor who resigned due to a four-hour water cut.
“He criticizes me for calling him a dictator. What would you call a prime minister who banned our billboards that read, ‘If citizens pay taxes, then the government must be accountable?’ What would you call someone who sees the separation of powers as a hindrance, while violating the Constitution?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.
Gezi, Egypt, Ukraine, Soma, independence
Kılıçdaroğlu’s “dictator” label was not the sole factor leading up to Erdoğan’s anger. According to him, the Gezi Park unrest, the first anniversary of which is approaching, and a huge corruption scandal which erupted in December 2013 when police detained sons of ministers and businessmen were not merely aimed at himself, his family and the government, but also democracy, the nation, the national will and the economy, which is growing thanks to stability, Erdoğan suggested.
Everybody witnessed how similar attacks in Egypt and Ukraine ended up, he said, adding that such scenes had been seen in the aftermath of the Soma coal mine accident as well.
“Believe me; they don’t even care about miners, workers, our martyrs there and their families. They are slandering in a bid to gain politically and ideologically,” Erdoğan said. “We are never afraid of criticism, lawful demonstration and freedom of expression but if our democracy, national will and economy, furthermore, our independence, are targeted under the pretext of criticism, protest and the right to demonstration, then, no offense, we will not allow this, and I believe that you would not allow this either.”