Turkish PM Erdoğan seeks Thrace’s support
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers chess sets to attendees of a mass opening ceremony he held Dec. 6 in the northwestern province of Kırklareli. The prime minister departed from Kırklareli to Tekirdağ Dec. 6, and was scheduled to go on to Edirne on Dec. 8Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has embarked on a three-day visit to region of Thrace, which has long been seen as an opposition fortress, seeking to enhance support for his party before the upcoming local elections.
Erdoğan’s Thrace tour kicked-off in Kırklareli on Dec. 6 and will continuing in a number of districts in Tekirdağ and Edirne until Dec. 8. The prime minister is accompanied by several heavyweight AKP figures on the trip, including Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, Forestry Minister Veysel Eroğlu, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu and Science and Industry Minister Nihat Ergün.
Having announced 68 of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 81 provincial candidates for the March 2014 elections over the past two weeks, Erdoğan has started stepping up his electioneering efforts with more frequent regional visits and candidate announcement ceremonies of late.
Speaking in Kırklareli, Erdoğan attacked the Republican People’s Party (CHP) municipality in the province, accusing it of being “dishonest” and criticizing its performance as mayor of the northwestern province.
“This CHP changes from night to morning. Believe me it is so. They never act honestly,” he said, claiming the opposition party has no program or plan.
“You already see, Kırklareli, you see what they have done in the city center. Look to the districts. In the name of God, you see what there in regard to municipality operations,” he said.The current mayor of Kırklareli is the CHP’s Cavit Çağlayan, and Erdoğan announced on Dec. 5 that Selahattin Minsolmaz will be running as the ruling party’s nominee for the post. Minsolmaz competed for the same seat in the 2004 local elections but lost to the CHP’s nominee Yılmaz Şeşen. Çağlayan became the mayor in 2009 after Şeşen resigned from the chair. Tekirdağ Mayor Adem Dalgıç, who collected almost half of his province’s votes in the last elections, is also from the CHP, as well as Edirne Mayor Hamdi Sedefçi. Since coming to power in 2002, Erdoğan has tried in vain to extend his electoral success to the western coastline and Thracian provinces, both of which are considered to be CHP strongholds.
Prime Minister Erdoğan placed special emphasis on “national unity” in his speech. “What did we say? We said one nation, one flag, one homeland, one state. We walked the road in this manner. Which nations are in it? Turks, Kurds, Laz, Circassians, Bosnians, Roma people, whatever comes to your mind is in it. All 36 ethnic segments are included in this,” he said. Kırklareli also holds a particular place in Erdoğan’s personal life, as it is home to the Pınarhisar penitentiary, where he served a sentence for reciting a poem while he was Istanbul’s mayor. Despite expectations, he did not visit the jail, but he did recall those days and the importance of his days in prison for his political life. “They thought they had convicted me and took my freedom from me, but I didn’t come to Pınarhisar as a convict. I came here elated with my people’s affection, as judged in my people’s conscious, freed from his chains, as a science student,” Erdoğan said. “Pınarhisar is not a foreign land for me, it is the ultimate reunion,” he added.