Turkish PM asks party leaders not to use Erdoğan as campaign tool

Turkish PM asks party leaders not to use Erdoğan as campaign tool

Turkish PM asks party leaders not to use Erdoğan as campaign tool

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Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has urged political party leaders to act in line with political decency and keep President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan out of the election campaign, while still vowing to absolutely defend the president.

“Come, let’s conduct political competition within the rules of political politeness. Let’s criticize each other but let’s not trade insults. Let’s not turn families and private life into part of political competition. Let’s particularly keep the presidential office, which represents our entire nation, out of political debates,” Davutoğlu said Sept. 21, as he delivered a speech at a mass gathering in Ankara where his Justice and Development Party (AKP) presented its candidates for the Nov. 1 snap elections. 

“They should know that the AK Parti’s personnel are determined to defend the top of the state, the most eminent office of the nation, in the face of every attack and insult. Let all of us act in line with the rules of political politeness,” Davutoğlu said. “Let’s debate each other’s visions but let’s not turn personalities into topics of debate.”

Erdoğan is the founding leader of the AKP which failed to form a single-party government in the June 7 election for the first time after winning three consecutive elections since November 2002.

In the run-up to the June 7 parliamentary election, Erdoğan held a series of large public rallies during which he made little secret of his preference for single-party rule by the AKP despite constitutional clauses that require him to be impartial. Opponents have argued he wanted another election to enable the AKP to win enough of a majority to change the constitution and grant him sweeping powers as an executive president.

After failing to secure a coalition, Davutoğlu formed an interim cabinet ahead of the November re-run. 

During the campaigning before the June 7 vote, opposition leaders frequently attacked Erdoğan, particularly for his publicly voiced aspiration for a presidential system. For his part, Erdoğan complained furiously that the opposition leaders had violated his privacy and unfairly attacked his family.

In its manifesto for the June 7 election, the AKP promised to change the country’s administrative system from the current parliamentary one to a presidential system in line with Erdoğan’s insistent calls, pointing to the new constitution as the first job of the next parliament. 

The party has yet to finalize and announce its manifesto for the Nov. 1 vote, with Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş telling reporters on Sept. 21 that it would be made public on Oct. 4.

“Work on that [manifesto] is going on at the moment,” Kurtulmuş said, speaking to reporters after candidates were presented by Davutoğlu. “The presidential system is only one of the many issues that will be raised for a better and more governable administration system and for an effective administration,” he said.

“This is never about individuals. I want to reiterate once more on this occasion, this issue is not about Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, not a personal issue about our president.”

Former Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, acting as a deputy chair of the party, was more distanced in his remarks about the presidential system.

“We have never insisted on the presidential system. When you look at Mr. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements in the past; he had said ‘the presidential system is not a sine qua non but I believe in a presidential system,’” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at the same gathering.

‘258 brave men’

Addressing the gathering, Davutoğlu began his speech by saying “Let’s Bismillah (“In the name of God, the most Gracious and Compassionate”) which was also the name of a campaign song played at the gathering for the first time.

Although the song was already ready, it was not played at an AKP congress on Sept. 12 out of respect for scores of soldiers and police officers killed in the fight against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“In three months, we have encountered a lot of obstacles. On the morning of June 8, a ‘bloc’ debate was launched. They said that ‘The anti-AK Parti bloc seized a majority in parliament and that the AK Parti’s years in power had ended.’ The 258 brave men stood tall in the face of these blocs,” Davutoğlu said, while referring to the 258 seats his party won in the June 7 elections.

Davutoğlu called on the audience to stand up and applaud the 258 “brave men,” offering gratitude to them.

“Those who assumed that Turkey would descend into chaos and crisis because we couldn’t come to power on our own despite having gained 258 deputies have seen that the backbone of politics in Turkey is the AK Parti.

Politics cannot be shaped and designed without the AK Parti,” he said.

“While congratulating our 258 deputies one by one, I also call on those of my brothers who have been among those 258 deputies of ours but who are not among the candidates [for the Nov. 1 vote]. Let no one think that they weren’t nominated because of their mistakes. Each of them fulfilled their duties with honor,” he added.

When compared to the AKP’s candidate list for the 550-seated parliament in the June 7 election, only 312 of those who were nominated on June 7 were nominated again for the Nov. 1 snap elections. Meanwhile, the AKP, which nominated 99 women in the June 7 vote, nominated 69 women this time.