Erdoğan’s rival İnce: I will win despite media
“There is an extraordinary groundswell going on,” said Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has emerged as an unexpectedly popular rival against the mighty President Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey’s snap elections on June 24
“I see it in my rallies,” İnce added at a June 20 press conference in Istanbul. “We have no special arrangements for the rallies, just posters and announcements. We do not have as much money as the Justice and Development Party [AK Parti], but in many places the crowds are bigger than [Erdoğan’s].”
İnce has held 102 rallies in the 48 days since he was put forward as a candidate by CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and at the press conference he accused most national media outlets of trying to ignore him. “I’m in the headlines and commentaries in the international press but the Turkish media fails the test. How can you cut my speech in half just to start broadcasting Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım once again. After all, there will be no Prime Ministry left after June 24 according to the new constitution. So Yıldırım is already just a plain MP, but the Turkish media favors him and ignores the president’s main rival,” he said.
Describing his words as a “friendly rebuke,” İnce said the Turkish media’s supplication to Erdoğan and the government is a “pity” and simply “saddens him.”
“Nevertheless, you’ll see that I will win this election. We will win despite this partisan media and despite the cowardice of the business world. No longer will one single man be able to determine everything in the country, including newspaper headlines. A poem that I wrote 30 years ago makes the news after being serviced to the media but it is not permissible to write about [Erdoğan’s] partnership with FETÖ until just five years ago,” said İnce, referring to the illegal network of the U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of masterminding the July 2016 military coup attempt.
İnce said that if he is elected president he would “free the media,” pledging legislative regulations that would stop media owners from being able to bid for government tenders and receive money from public banks. Instead of state banks providing money to purchase media outlets, he would use the credit to support farmers and small shopkeepers, leaving investors from other areas to purchase media outlets. İnce noted that he missed the times when media ownership used to be a family business, from generation to generation.
That could be a nice dream in contrast with the business realities of today’s world, but İnce has a point in his criticism of the media. Despite lagging behind the government in coverage, İnce has received more coverage than the other opposition challengers, some of whom have complained to the Supreme Election Board and the Constitutional Court over getting zero or near zero coverage on public broadcaster TRT (despite laws specifying coverage in proportion to their representation at parliament).
However, the media is not İnce’s number one priority. Rather, he stated that the most urgent and fundamental problem facing Turkey is the state of the judiciary. “Justice, fair trials, honest judges and prosecutors are the most important problems in Turkey. Without justice, a country is nothing more than a piece of land,” İnce said.