Student oath is the wrong kind of nationalism, Turkish PM says

Student oath is the wrong kind of nationalism, Turkish PM says

Student oath is the wrong kind of nationalism, Turkish PM says

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during a mass opening ceremony in Adana on Oct. 5. AA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has struck against opposition criticism of the government's move to remove the student's oath, saying the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had done more for Turkey than parties "pretending to be nationalists."

"Lining up kids every morning and making them chant slogans from the 1930s, the Cold War and the era of the Iron Curtain, is not nationalism. Nationalism is building classrooms where those kids can receive education in humane conditions," Erdoğan said during a mass opening ceremony in Adana on Oct. 5.

The AKP lost Adana to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the 2009 local elections after former mayor Aytaç Durak switched camps. With Durak removed from duty following a corruption scandal, Erdoğan slammed the MHP's nationalist discourse, in an attempt to win back the municipality in the upcoming March 2014 local elections.

"I am addressing those who come to Adana to make sermons on nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is not carried out through speeches filled with hate," he said, implicitly referring to MHP leader Develt Bahçeli's massive Adana rally in late May.

"Those who said they were nationalists have [trampled on] our mighty flag, currency and passport. We have given back their reputation. We are not nationalists for the slogans; for us, nationalism is producing services for our people," Erdoğan said.

"You can't develop countries with racist nationalism. They said they were Turkish, but they have trampled on Turkey's reputation. They said they were honest, but they left Turkey prey to corruption. They said they were industrious, but they lay around for years," he added, in reference to the words of the students' oath that say, "I am a Turk, I am honest, I am industrious."

The prime minister said 43 percent of Turkey's budget in 2003 was reserved for the interest payments of foreign debts accumulated during the coalition government, which included the MHP, before the AKP came into power. This figure has dropped to 13 percent, saving the country 642 billion Turkish Liras, Erdoğan said.

"What they did for the people is self evident. They indebted us, we paid the debts. They made the interests rise, we reduced them," he said.

He also accused the opposition of using "fear scenarios" to criticize the "progress Turkey has made." "You will see, they will loose and Turkey will win," he said, vowing to start construction work for a metro system and regional airport in Adana.

Erdoğan is scheduled to visit a number of districts in Adana on Oct. 6, as well as the Çukurova basin, which is one of the most important agricultural regions of the country.