Turkish Prime Minister and presidential frontrunner Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised more of the same in his bid to become head of state next month, adopting uncompromising rhetoric as he seeks to win the polls in the first round.
Speaking July 1 after being officially nominated for the post, Erdoğan promised to serve everyone, arguing that he served all Istanbulites no matter who they voted for when he held office as Istanbul metropolitan mayor between 1994 and 1998.
“When my nation tasked me with the prime ministry, we became the prime minister of 77 million [citizens], not only of those who voted for the [Justice and Development Party – AKP]. Everybody shall know that we will be the president of the Republic of Turkey, but not of a segment and a party, if we get elected on Aug. 10. Nobody shall doubt: I will be everybody’s president no matter who they vote in favor of or not,” Erdoğan said, using the “royal we,” as he took the floor after AKP Deputy Chair Mehmet Ali Şahin announced the PM’s candidacy.
Şahin’s announcement was followed by the projection of a documentary about Erdoğan’s life, drawing exuberant applause from supporters of the AKP, who welcomed him to the floor amid cheering and clapping, while also singing pro-Erdoğan songs.
“I believe that we will be seeking votes from AK Party supporters, from those who set their hearts on the CHP [the main opposition Republican People’s Party], the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party] and the HDP [the Peoples’ Democracy Party]; and votes from all political views represented inside and outside of the Parliament on Aug. 10. I believe that I will get their votes too. I have no doubt. My one and only goal during my tenure will be to provide services for the 77 million,” he added.
The two major opposition parties, the CHP and the MHP, nominated a joint candidate, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, a diplomat and academic who was at the helm of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for nine years until 2014, while HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş has also put his hat in the ring as his party’s candidate.
Erdoğan would need at least 50 percent plus one to win outright in the first round on Aug. 10 and avoid a run-off on Aug. 24 which could see opponents of his divisive style attempt to rally behind a single candidate.
No balcony but many fronts
With his assertion that he would win votes from all political fronts, Erdoğan’s July 1 address was apparently designed to be yet another “balcony speech,” reminiscent of his post-election speeches following his party’s victories in the past which were seen as conciliatory to various segments of society.
Yet, the aggressive tone he used to slam the opposition parties indicated that all through his campaign, Erdoğan will resort to his tried-and-tested strategy of using political polarization to consolidate his support. He also clearly noted that he would publicly continue a power struggle with U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, vowing to step up his battle against what he terms Gülen’s “parallel state” within the judiciary and state organs, which he accuses of plotting to unseat him.
“When you look at other political parties; they are local. Some of them are the party of a certain ethnic element, while some of them are the party of another ethnic element and another one has remained as the party of the ‘coast,’ but the AK Party exists everywhere,” said Erdoğan, recalling how the AKP scored a convincing victory in March local elections.
“The president has a primary duty against all attempts threatening our national security in addition to national unity. We will never tolerate the parallel state organization. We will continue struggling against this pawn organization which aims at our country’s independence,” he said. “We will entirely and rapidly eliminate this dirty structure,” he added, emphasizing that their struggle against the Gülen movement would remain within legal boundaries.
Erdoğan declared his prospective presidency as a threshold marking the end of a lengthy era of tutelage in the Turkish political system, while he also clearly promised a departure from predecessors who merely exercised largely ceremonial powers.
“On Aug. 10, not only will the 12th president be elected, but a black era, an era of tutelage, will also be closed with the president having been elected by the people,” Erdoğan said.
“The election of the president personally by the people themselves, not just by the Parliament, is not a simple and technical change. This is not solely a methodical change. Having the president elected by the people will put an end to the history of tutelage in this country,” he said.