Main opposition leader challenges AKP, MHP leaders to TV debate on charter changes

Main opposition leader challenges AKP, MHP leaders to TV debate on charter changes

Main opposition leader challenges AKP, MHP leaders to TV debate on charter changes

DHA photo

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has challenged the leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to a debate on TV on the constitutional amendments that will be voted in an upcoming referendum on April 16.

“I am calling out to them. I do not have a TV station. They have hundreds of TV channels. I do not have hundreds of journalists who support me and chase after me. They have thousands of them. I am telling them, let it be on the TV channel of your choice, invite the journalists yourself, journalists of your choice; let me speak only for 15 minutes, while you can speak for half an hour,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a meeting with shopkeepers in Ankara on April 4. 

His challenge came after AKP officials accused the CHP leader of lying about the latter’s criticisms of the constitutional amendment.

“When I talk about the wrong sides of the constitutional amendment they accuse me of lying. They say ‘he is lying.’ I laugh, of course. There are only 18 articles. If there were thousands of them, we would say that we did not understand such and such. It is only 18 articles,” he said, reiterating his call for a debate with the leaders.

“Let the citizens sit on their couches and decide who is telling the truth and who is speaking wrong. Why after April 16? We are discussing the constitutions,” he said, adding that his party did not intend to fight. 

“We do not intend to fight. Why would we fight? The constitutional amendment will be the constitution of all of us,” he said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu argues that the constitutional amendment would violate the principle of the separation of powers and would result in a regime change, which will transform Turkey into a party state under a one-man regime.

Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu said that Turkey has become a “semi-open prison,” criticizing the dismissal of the judge who ruled to release singer Atilla Taş, who has been in pre-trial detention for alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“This is not democracy. But does not assume that only Turkey is watching this. The world is watching. The world knows this. We are all currently living in a semi-open prison in Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu told a meeting in Istanbul late on April 3.

His comments came after Taş was taken back into custody shortly after being released from jail ahead of his trial for alleged links to the Gülen movement, widely believed to have orchestrated the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Following the renewed detention of Taş, the judge and the prosecutor who ordered his release were removed from their posts by the top judicial board on April 3.

“Atilla Taş was arrested. A prosecutor asked for his release and the judge ruled to release him. Then someone posted a few tweets and that prompted the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors to suspend the judge and prosecutor who released him. Atilla Taş was supposed to come into a semi-open prison from a closed prison, but they did not let him,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Taş, who was known in Turkey as a singer, was also writing columns for the daily Meydan newspaper, which was shut down as part of the probe into the Gülen network after the attempted coup. He had also become more popular on social media with his active role in the anti-government Gezi Park protests in summer 2013, but now is being tried along with 20 other journalists, facing prison terms of up to 10 years on charges of being members of an armed terror organization.

Responding to questions concerning his earlier comments calling on the government to reveal the political leg of the July 15 coup attempt, Kılıçdaroğlu said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had a list of its members who are affiliated with the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) but was reluctant to investigate it. He also reiterated his claim that the AKP’s reluctance suggests the possibility of a “controlled coup.”

“Is there anyone who doesn’t know that? Our group deputy chairpersons have voiced this many times. We have voiced it. All of this has been said before. In the coming period, the political leg of the July 15 coup attempt must be revealed,” he said.

“The commission formed in parliament to investigate the coup was obstructed. Certain officials should have come to testify but they were blocked,” he added.

The CHP head also said the upcoming referendum on April 16 for the constitutional amendment will decide on whether to transition Turkey to a “party state.”

“The president and vice presidents will be affiliated with a political party. Ministers, undersecretaries, governors, district governors and muftis will all be affiliated with a political party. Individuals who are not affiliated with the party will be excluded from society,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“This is a Hitler model, a Mussolini model, an old communist party model,” he added.