If there is a dictator, topple him at elections, says Turkish PM Erdoğan

If there is a dictator, topple him at elections, says Turkish PM Erdoğan

If there is a dictator, topple him at elections, says Turkish PM Erdoğan

DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin Sönmez

Responding to charges that he is becoming increasingly authoritarian, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has thrown down the gauntlet, saying that those who accuse him should seek to topple him through elections.

“I dare those – both here and abroad - who accuse us of dictatorship and of forming a tutelage. Here they are, let them settle their accounts on March 30 at the ballot box. If there is a dictator in this country, here they are, let them topple this dictator through the ballot box,” Erdoğan said at an expanded meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) provincial chairs held on Oct. 25, referring to the upcoming local elections.

“How can you label an election as dictatorial while representatives of all political parties observe ballot boxes and take part in vote counting boards? Turkey displays the best example of elections in the world. If there’s a tutelage system in Turkey, let them put an end to it by the ballot box,” he said, adding that elections in Turkey had been appreciated by international observers.

“Democracy will not come by throwing stones or Molotov cocktails, that would be a coup. The ballot box is the only place to settle accounts. Everybody should recognize the election results. The time is over for those who lead to the usurpation of the national will through arms, through terror and through street [demonstrations] when they don’t like the election results,” Erdoğan said.

The latest accusations of the prime minister’s authoritarian style came in the latest edition of British weekly news and international affairs magazine The Economist. “Mr. Erdoğan, who was once mayor of Istanbul, has been governing Turkey in an ever more imperious style,” said the article, posted from Istanbul.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu often accuses Erdoğan of conducting “dictatorial” practices.

However, the prime minister responded by saying that nobody should deem themselves the “sole owner” of the Republic, in a veiled criticism of the CHP, which prides itself on being the founder of the Republic.

“No political party has the right to put impositions on this nation, hiding behind the pretext of saying, ‘We founded the Republic.’ Because other political parties of this country did not come from space, they came from the heart of this nation,” Erdoğan said.

 While speaking of his government’s recent move to reduce compulsory military service from 15 to 12 months from next year, he called on both the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry to “capture” those who have not fulfilled this compulsory service despite passing the draft age. According to reports, some 600,000 Turkish men are in the position of “draft-evaders.”

“There are 600,000 draft evaders, I don’t want to use this term, but they are absentees. Our Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry should capture and hand them over to the military,” Erdoğan said.