Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the country is heading to a totalitarian regime, referring to the pressures on the press in Turkey during a meeting with foreign media members in Istanbul on May 2.
“Turkey is heading rapidly toward a totalitarian regime. One cannot speak of democracy in a country if there is no freedom of the press. The bans on Twitter, YouTube, the pressure on the newspapers and TV channels are unacceptable,” said Kılıçdaroğlu upon a question at the meeting in Istanbul.
Recalling that May 3 is World Press Freedom Day, Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey is passing through a pressure regime which has practices fiercer than that of the times of the military coup.
“There are 44 journalists in jail today. Around 1,150 journalists have lost their jobs in past five years. We see practices harsher than those of the military rulers in this country,” said Kılıçdaroğlu in his address to foreign journalists.
The main opposition leader, however, voiced optimism over the end of his party’s struggle against totalitarianism.
“This is a difficult struggle. But I am sure of one thing: We will win in the end. An oppressive regime has never been successful in history. Societies have paid the price and we are ready to pay the price on this road,” said Kılıçdaroğlu during the meeting.
CHP deputy chair Gürsel Tekin, CHP deputy chair Faruk Loğoğlu, CHP deputy chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu, CHP deputy Şafak Pavey and CHP Istanbul provincial head Oğuz Kaan Salıcı were also present at the meeting held at a hotel in Istanbul’s Taksim neighborhood.
Kılıçdaroğlu said that there is no freedom in a country if people are not allowed to hold their celebrations at the place they want to, referring to the banning of Taksim Square to unionists on May 1. “There was martial law in Istanbul yesterday [May 1]. Workers should be allowed to celebrate their day wherever they want to. Besides, Taksim has a symbolic meaning for the workers,” said Kılıçdaroğlu criticizing the government’s efforts in blocking Taksim to workers and unions on May 1.
Kılıçdaroğlu told foreign media members that the CHP will nominate the candidate who will get the most votes from the voters of other parties in the second round of the presidential elections scheduled for August.
“All parties will nominate their own candidates in the first round of the elections. This will have advantages and disadvantages. We believe that our candidate should be able to get votes from the voters of other parties in the second round,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.
He also criticized the fact that the debates over the presidential elections are reduced to one point, whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or current President Abdullah Gül will run.
“We should discuss what characteristics our president should have. It is very dangerous if someone who is not acquitted in the court from the allegations against him becomes president. This will be a legitimization of the corruption,” said Kılıçdaroğlu referring to the recent corruption probe opened against high-profile names, including the sons of three former ministers.
Kılıçdaroğlu said the Erdoğan’s recent statement offering condolences to the relatives of the victims of the 1915 incidents should be seen as a humane act.
“It is very humane to give a statement of condolence to those who died during the 1915 incidents. All of these people who lost their lives were Ottoman citizens. We have already stated our opinion about the prime minister’s statement,” said Kılıçdaroğlu referring to Loğoğlu’s remarks that said these statements should have been said earlier regarding the issue.
Upon a question about a probe opened against Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is in self-exile in the U.S., Kılıçdaroğlu said if there is any structure that damages the state, it should be tried before the court. However, Kılıçdaroğlu also stated that the rift between the Gülen movement and government is mainly caused by the fact that Erdoğan is attempting to create an enemy because “dictators tend to create enemies.” He also said it is ridiculous for Erdoğan to say that the Gülen movement has ruled the country for 12 years.