CHP head criticizes Erdoğan over remarks on death penalty at unity rally

CHP head criticizes Erdoğan over remarks on death penalty at unity rally

Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA
CHP head criticizes Erdoğan over remarks on death penalty at unity rally

DHA photo

The leader of the main opposition has criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over his remarks on capital punishment at a massive unity rally in Istanbul on Aug. 7, arguing that the head of state had not learned “his lesson,” while nonetheless expressing his hopes that the present climate of unity will continue.

“God willing, yesterday’s atmosphere will continue and conciliation will prevail. But there is a troublesome picture. Mr. President launched a discussion on [re-instituting] capital punishment. As if he did not get any lesson out of what has happened, he says, ‘Bring it to me and I will sign it.’ He knows it won’t happen or he should know it won’t happen. Instead of calming down the people, he is further fueling [the tension],” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told daily Hürriyet in an interview on Aug. 8. 

Kılıçdaroğlu participated in the rally to condemn the July 15 coup attempt along with Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was also present at the rally and made an address to the crowd even though it is unusual for the military brass to attend such political meetings. 

Kılıçdaroğlu called on Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ to explain that even if capital punishment is approved by parliament, it could not be retroactively applied to coup plotters due to the universal principles of law. Turkey removed the death penalty from its constitution in 2002 as part of the accession process to the European Union. The demand to re-install it has come to the fore in the aftermath of the coup attempt that left at least 238 people dead.

Government, opposition should cooperate 

The participants at the rally should have presented a road map to prevent any future attempts against democracy, he said. 

“We can overcome all these if we can move together as the government and the opposition. We can take a step in the field of justice and change the constitution,” he said, citing a recent initiative for a small-scale constitutional change to strengthen the independence of justice. 

“I found the chance to address a crowd, the majority of whom are from the AKP [Justice and Development Party]. I just wanted them to question the issues I have raised; for example, the freedom of the media. They should just think about this: How would they have known where to go [on July 15] to stop the tanks if the media had not reported it? They should think: Even the president was only able to go before the people and make his call thanks to the media,” he said.

Military politicized 

Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized the content of recent decree laws that have been issued by the government in line with the state of emergency. The CHP leader warned that substantial changes in the military structure enacted with the decree law were making the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) open to political influence. 

“Turkey needs to have a strong army in order to be powerful in its region. Of course, the last decision belongs to the politicians, but attempts to weaken the army should be avoided,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. 

It’s important that the military should be under the control of civilian authority, he stated, recommending an increase in the legislature’s influence over the TSK. 

Kılıçdaroğlu urges Erdoğan on media

Kılıçdaroğlu also touched on his conversation with the president on the media. “I warned him over his approach to the media. He should not pick up journalists from media outlets [to accompany him on trips]. He should ask media outlets to nominate journalists to accompany him. ‘By choosing them, you are intervening into the internal affairs of media outlets,’ I told him,” he said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu also said he would not have left early had he known that Akar was planning to speak.