Erdoğan rebuffs Finnish journalist over ‘dictatorship’ claims

Erdoğan rebuffs Finnish journalist over ‘dictatorship’ claims

Erdoğan rebuffs Finnish journalist over ‘dictatorship’ claims

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has responded angrily to a question over claims that his rule amounts to a dictatorship at a press conference with foreign journalists.

The question came from a Finnish journalist as Erdoğan was holding a joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto late on Oct. 13. The main topic turned to the Oct. 10 double suicide bombings that killed at least 97 people in Turkey’s capital Ankara. 

“I have found the opportunity to travel around your beautiful country. Unfortunately, some citizens are afraid of you, they claim that you have been ruling your country with dictatorship,” the journalist said, speaking fluent Turkish. 

“At the same time, what is more desperate is that some people have been claiming that the state is involved in the terror attack in Ankara. What do you think about these claims?” he then asked.

Erdoğan’s first asked which media outlet the journalist was working for, before responding:

“First of all, one should see quite frankly that surely you wouldn’t be able to ask such a question in a country that has a dictator. The second point: you wouldn’t be to insult a country’s prime minister, president or his family without restraint in a country where there is a dictatorship.” 

Having served as prime minister from the current caretaker of the interim government, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), from early 2003 to August 2014, Erdoğan was elected president by popular vote in August 2014.

“I’m someone who was elected president by 52 percent of my people a year ago. Who are those people declaring that a person who was elected president by 52 percent of his people’s vote as dictator?” he asked.

Labeling him increasingly authoritarian and divisive, Erdoğan’s opponents have blamed him for the Oct. 10 attack, accusing the state of intelligence failings and, at worst, of complicity by stirring up nationalist, anti-Kurdish sentiment.

The government, facing a growing Kurdish conflict at home and the spillover of war in Syria, vehemently denies the accusations.

Speaking at the press conference, Erdoğan, who is known to have long aspired for a presidential system with fewer checks and balances, said Turkey is a country where freedoms are limitless in its democratic parliamentary system.