No political organization or institution can “monopolize Atatürk” or use the founder of the Republic of Turkey “to polarize society,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said.
“Neither the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AK Party as an institution nor the AK Party’s members need to prove their Atatürkist stance,” Yıldırım said, addressing party members at parliament on Nov. 14.
His remarks come after debate over the AKP’s notable emphasis on Atatürk in recent months, particularly during national commemorations of the 79th anniversary of the passing of Atatürk on Nov. 10.
“Atatürk is the common value of this country,” Yıldırım stated, claiming that the AKP is the “strongest assurance of secularism.”
“No one can isolate Atatürk from the religious people of Turkey … Atatürk is our value just as much as Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror,” he said, referring to the 15th century Ottoman sultan.
Meanwhile, the prime minister also claimed that “some circles” are trying to “cause chaos and impose an economic crisis scenario” for Turkey in 2018.
“But just as we defeated these games in 2017, recording record-breaking growth rates, we have taken the necessary precautions for 2018,” Yıldırım said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said the AKP aims to “protect the legacy” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, guarding it from “ideological bigotry that instrumentalizes his name.”
“There is nothing more natural than respect for a name who was leader of such a struggle to have a valuable place in the nation’s hearts,” Erdoğan said at an event marking the 79th anniversary of Atatürk’s death.
He also stated that the name of Atatürk had been “used by certain mentalities” as a “tool for ideological purposes,” criticizing the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which was founded by Atatürk, for “abusing Atatürk’s name” and “not protecting his legacy.”
In response, CHP Deputy Group Chair Özgür Özel blasted Erdoğan for “praising Atatürk only for election purposes,” accusing him of “appropriating Atatürk in the chase for votes.”
“This is futile. This nation sees what he’s doing. In the April referendum [on shifting to an executive presidential system], when you tried to change the regime, votes were not counted with the help of the Supreme Election Board. That is why the first election will be a referendum between the lovers of diktats and the lovers of the Republic,” Özel said.