There is a ‘fear of government’ in Turkey, says İhsanoğlu

There is a ‘fear of government’ in Turkey, says İhsanoğlu

One of the questions asked to presidential candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu during a press gathering in Istanbul on July 17 was his opinion about a statement by John Bass, the U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Ankara, after Bass was forced by Republican Senator John McCain to comment on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s “drift towards authoritarianism.” In the meantime, the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki had endorsed the stance of Bass, referring to her department’s annual human rights report.

İhsanoğlu, who is supported by not only the two largest opposition parties - the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - but also five other smaller parties, gave an unusually blunt answer; unusual to his mild, academic, diplomatic stance and non-partisan style.

“One of the main reasons of being a candidate for me, when this offer was made, was to stand against this drift toward authoritarianism,” he said.

“There is a danger that the authorities achieved through democratic means are being concentrated in one hand. The government has subjugated Parliament due to its seat domination and the judiciary to a great extent due to changes in legislation passed through Parliament, while some of the media are applauding this picture. This is not democracy. The presidency is the only institution left out of this picture. I am against this [drift] not because of European Union reports, not because of U.S. senators or the State Department, I am against this because our people suffer from it. Not because of Senator McCain, but because my Aunt Fatma and Uncle Hacı on the street are against it,” he added.

Touching on the same issue again later on during the presser, İhsanoğlu complained that media and individual freedoms were being restricted, “from the Internet to all other fields.” “There is fear in Turkey, people are afraid of the government. I cannot understand how we have ended up like this,” he said.

It was not possible to think that İhsanoğlu - this academic diplomat, the former Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) - was supported by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government as its success story up until a year ago. Now, he says he has “devoted himself” to stopping Erdoğan’s presidency. He says the system in Turkey is suffering a bottleneck effect that he believes can be “solved by the presidential elections.”

İhsanoğlu gives no credit to public opinion polls that are “prepared on the order of Erdoğan,” which show the prime minister as winning the election in the first round on Aug. 10. He claims that he himself is going to win it in the first round. “The Turkish people have the experience of foiling the plots of those seizing power,” İhsanoğlu said, claiming that he will get “60 percent” of the votes. “You can write that,” he added. “I believe in the common sense of the Turkish people.”