President Erdoğan to present Merkel visit as show of support: Main opposition leader

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is likely to present an upcoming visit by GermanChancellor Angela Merkel as a show of support for himself to his supporters ahead of a referendum expected in April on reforms that will increase his powers, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said.

“His message will suggest that Merkel visited Turkey in order to support his own policies. Even though Merkel doesn’t have that intention, he will present it in such a way to his supporters,” Kılıçdaroğlu told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

When asked about Merkel’s visit to Istanbul in 2015 before Turkish parliamentary elections to stop a refugee crisis, Kılıçdaroğlu said she “might be coming to help Erdoğan.” 

“Maybe her reason for that visit is the same [this time]: She may be coming to support Erdoğan and help him. Doesn’t this visit have that meaning?” he asked. 

During the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu was asked whether it would be better if Merkel did not visit Turkey. 

“It depends on what Merkel’s purpose is with the visit,” he said. 

Noting that the CHP expected Turkey to become a full member of the European Unionas soon as possible, Kılıçdaroğlu said they also expected Merkel to make efforts on the issue. 

“We want new chapters to be opened and visa [requirements] to be lifted as soon as possible,” he added.
  
Furthermore, Kılıçdaroğlu was asked whether Merkel should take a stance against the presidential system. 

“She knows it. Maybe she can say that Turkey’s democratic standards should be enhanced and the separation of powers is the most essential democratic standard,” he said. 

Constitutional amendments that were recently accepted in parliament are expected to be submitted for Erdoğan’s approval by the end of the week, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) hoping to conduct a subsequent referendum on the articles on April 9.

Asked how Turkey would be “if Erdoğan wins the referendum,” Kılıçdaroğlu said the president would affect the lives of citizens deeply.

“We will feel more pressure. Erdoğan will rule the country with decree laws. Parliament will be deactivated. The state of emergency will be the usual state,” he said, referring to a state of emergency declared after a July 2016 coup. 

“As the CHP, we are not alone. The duty falls on everybody in society: Intellectuals, democrats, liberals, conservatives and the religious. We need to tell what this system will cost. What we ask our citizens to think before they vote,” he said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu said they would not carry out a campaign against Erdoğan as the problem “is bigger than him.”

“The charter will be in force after Erdoğan. The amendments will be the end of democracy in Turkey,” he said. 

During the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu also said “a fair campaign can’t be held in a state of emergency.” 

“A referendum that would result in a ‘no’ vote will enhance democracy and show Erdoğan his boundaries. There is no place for dictators in the 21st century. I don’t believe that a ‘yes’ vote will come out of the referendum,” he added.

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