Opposition presidential candidate İhsanoğlu kicks off with unity message
Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu also strongly criticized the government’s foreign policy. DHA PhotoEkmeleddin İhsanoğlu has unveiled his official presidential election campaign, sending messages of “unity” to the public while vowing to defend “rights and democracy.”
“I am the presidential candidate of all parties. I am not close to one party more than any other. I have a handful of seeds in my hand that I wish to plant,” said the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) joint candidate at the launch of his campaign in Istanbul on July 10, indirectly accusing the government of not showing enough respect to either state institutions and society.
“We will need to plant the seeds of respect to be respectful of the government, the judiciary and all the segments of society. If elected, I will work to improve these relationships in the framework of respect,” İhsanoğlu said.
The former head of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also strongly criticized the government’s foreign policy, ruling out claims by his rival Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that he had campaigned for remaining neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He recalled that he mediated for a 2006 deal between Hamas and Fatah in 2006 and added that he played a role in the question of Palestine’s representation at the United Nations and affiliated organizations, even receiving a prestigious award from the Palestinian authorities for his efforts.
Responding to questions from reporters, İhsanoğlu said Turkey’s relations with its neighbors had recently become “problematic.”
“If today your pilots and diplomats are being taken hostage, if you are a target both outside the country and in the homeland, then you must be having problems with your neighbors,” he said, in an open reference to the 49 Turkish diplomats still being held by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq.
“If you do not have envoys in a number of countries and your former trade routes are closed, then you must have a problem. I believe it is time to put an end to this, or our loneliness in the world will grow,” he added.
İhsanoğlu also stressed the link between economic development and democracy with free thought.
“If there is no freedom, then there is no democracy,” he said, adding that vice versa was also correct.
Loyalty to parliamentary democracy has become one of the main themes of İhsanoğlu’s campaign, and he again stressed that executive power belongs to the Cabinet, rather than the president, in contrast with Erdoğan’s calls for a “strong president” and a hands-on approach to decision-making.
“You will tell me that the presidency is not an executive position. This may be true, but by joining hands and making calls, the president can show the path through his competence and position,” he said.
Helping the poorest people of Turkey requires a “broad political consensus,” İhsanoğlu said, adding that this was a hard task but possible if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the CHP, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) agreed. “Wherever I go, I hear that farmers, workers and the unemployed are in debt,” he said.
The third candidate in Turkey’s two-round presidential elections is HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş, with the first round set to be held on Aug. 10.
İhsanoğlu also paid tribute to Gezi protester Ali İsmail Korkmaz on the first anniversary of his death after he was beaten by plainclothes police.
Responding to a separate question on last year’s Gezi Park protests, the candidate said those who went to defend the central Istanbul park on the very first day were “patriotic.”
“If they had approached those young people in terms of communication, not sticks and gas, things would have been different. You should build dialogue with the youth, not marginalize them. The president is the head of the family. The era of beating is over,” he said.
İhsanoğlu’s campaign slogan pairs his name with the word “ekmek,” which in Turkish means “bread” when used as a noun and “to plant” when used as a verb. The main motto chosen or the campaign is “Ekmek için Ekmeleddin” – which means “Ekmeleddin for bread” – accompanied by a logo showing the Turkish map represented as a wheat field.
The campaign of İhsaonğlu also has four sub-slogans derived from the meaning of the verb “ekmek,” – to plant “love,” “respect,” “livelihood” and “unity” – targeting the voters of each of the four parties.
“We have always voted for the AKP. But now our votes will go to Professor Ekmel,” a billboard targeting AKP voters reads, depicting a family of four members in a wheat field.
During the presentation, İhsanoğlu referred to the proverb “what you sow is what you reap” to explain the choice of his slogan and logo.