The opposition complains over the president’s lack of neutrality
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Democratic Party of Peoples (HDP) has reported President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the country’s election authorities over what it calls his partisan speeches.
In a formal complaint to the YSK, the HDP says Mr Erdoğan used the office of the president to organise opening ceremonies around the country that took the form of rallies.
At these, the HDP application says, Mr Erdoğan:
- Openly endorsed the governing AK Party by saying “there is one party that I desire”;
- Allowed the HDP to be heckled as “a party backed by the terrorist organisation”;
- Used religious symbols (the Koran) for campaign purposes;
- Appeared alongside AK Party ministers and AK Party parliamentary candidate on a stage featuring AK Party colours.
The application refers to Erdoğan’s public rallies in towns ranging from Çanakkale and Balıkesir on 14-15 March to Siirt and Diyarbakır in the southeast on 2 and 4 May. It also lists 14 rallies held between 10 and 27 March which were each broadcast live by several Turkish television channels.
There’s no point pretending to be diplomatic about this: Mr Erdoğan is not a politically neutral president.
He is no longer a member of the AK Party and has been careful never to name it explicitly in his public remarks, but he has rarely attempted to conceal his loyalty to the party he founded. Last week, for example, he repeated a call for the governing party to be re-elected with 400 MPs.
His argument is that he ran in last year’s presidential election on a platform arguing for a more partisan presidency. He won 52 percent of the popular vote, giving him a mandate to do just that.
In its submission to Turkey’s election authorities today, the HDP asked for Mr Erdoğan to be served a formal warning. He must be reminded that the rules surrounding Turkey’s presidency, as they currently stand, do not permit a politically impartial president.
During election season the YSK is required to maintain a board ready to hear and quickly respond to any campaign complaints from Turkey’s political parties.
It won’t be long before we hear back. Don’t hold your breath over the outcome though, and remember that it will be final: the YSK makes one ruling on any election complaint and its decision cannot be appealed anywhere else.
UPDATE 7PM: The YSK has “unanimously” rejected the HDP complaint, the official Anadolu news agency is reporting. No officially stated reason yet, but is anyone really surprised?