CHP leader slams Erdoğan for using Hagia Sophia as strategy to court votes
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he once again said he would convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, saying the president used the matter, a sensitive issue for conservative voters, as a strategy to garner more votes only a few days before the local elections this weekend.
“What difference would it make to label [Hagia Sophia] as a mosque when its function will remain as a museum. [Erdoğan’s] aim is to court votes through this,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in an interview with private broadcaster FOX TV on March 29.
“If the Hagia Sofia is a museum, it will remain as one. If it is a mosque, it will also remain as one. There is no point in stirring things. If [Erdoğan] is using it as a tool for the elections, it means that his rule is drawing to a close,” he added.
In a televised interview last week, Erdoğan had suggested that the status of the Hagia Sophia could be converted into mosque although the ancient cathedral would continue to be used as a museum.
Regarding the upcoming elections, Kılıçdaroğlu urged voters to keep calm regardless of the outcome of the result.
“On that night [of March 31], all of us need to display sangfroid. There can be pros or cons, or rights or wrongs. We will go to the ballot boxes and inspect each of them,” he said.
When asked if he is certain of election safety, Kılıçdaroğlu said he has no doubt and added that all neighborhood heads, or muhtars, as well as members of provincial councils, will be present at polling stations.
“These are just local elections. What worries me are comments made about the elections being a matter of the country’s survival. We’re only electing village [neighborhood] heads, what do they have to do with the country’s survival?” he said.
“Mayors and members of city councils work on providing services, not the country’s survival. They [government] want to conduct politics over fear and anxiety,” he added.
No call for early election
The main opposition leader once again said his party will win landslide victory in the capital Ankara, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the southern provinces of Antalya, Adana and Mersin.
“Fighting for a certain ideal, for democracy is quite satisfying. This fight is important for all citizens. All of our rallies are like democracy festivals,” he said. “Bursa [northwestern province] can surprise us. It is actually a democratic city. It stays true to its traditions, but has left its old days behind, and now is being manipulated,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
He also stressed that he would not call for early elections even in the event of a loss in the March 31 elections.
“Calling for early elections just after a party has won some provinces is political opportunism. Our mayoral candidates are making commitments and will continue their duties when they succeed,” he said.
“This should be our priority when Turkey is in the midst of a critical economic crisis.”