Turkish opposition leader got attacked as government finds election defeat hard to digest
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked by an angry nationalist crowd on April 21 as he was attending the funeral of a soldier. Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was attacked in the Çubuk district of Ankara, near the international Esenboğa airport during the funeral ceremony of private Yener Kırıkcı who was among the four killed in a terrorist attack by the Iraqi border by the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a day before.
The police had difficulties to save Kılıçdaroğlu from the attack of a crowd also attending the funeral who were shouting nationalist slogans along with “PKK out”. The attackers who delivered fist blows –one of his eyes got injured- and kicks Kılıçdaroğlu also stoned the house where he was taken by his supporters for protection and damaged his car. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, who was also present at the funeral visited Kılıçdaroğlu in the house for consolation. Kılıçdaroğlu could be taken out of the house with an armoured vehicle. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said he condemned the attack and an investigation was started on the incident. The attack was voiced as a “lynch attempt” by the CHP officials. The police and gendarmerie, known to disperse the crowds by force, was observed to ignore this attack against the opposition leader.
“We will never bow before the attacks” Kılıçdaroğlu said afterwards; “They mounted up militants against us and that was also disrespect to the martyrs and their families.”
Kılıçdaroğlu who was attacked by the nationalist mob with slogans like “PKK out” had actually survived an assassination attempt by the PKK during an election campaign in 2016. The slogans were in reference to the propaganda by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that the PKK supported the CHP’s alliance with the centre-right Good Party (GP) because of the support they received by the Kurdish voters in Western cities. During the election campaign the defeated candidate of the AKP, former urbanization minister Mehmet Özhaseki had claimed that if the CHP candidate Mansur Yavaş won, the next day the PKK militants would collect the water and gas bills and municipal taxes. Yet, Yavaş, who has joined the social democratic CHP from a moderate nationalist background was elected as mayor of metropolitan Ankara with a 3 percent win; for the first time for the CHP in 25 years.
The attack took place a day after the MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, said that President Tayyip Erdoğan should not rush to “cool down the iron”, meaning go back to normal after the election as he recently vowed; otherwise terrorists would escalate the threat to national security, according to Bahçeli.
Also on April 20, after a meeting of the party’s election team in the AKP’s İstanbul Provincial Headquarters, chaired by President Erdoğan, the AKP asked the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to repeat the Istanbul election on ground that those voters who had been dismissed from their public jobs with government decrees (KHK) under the State of Emergency imposed by the government after a military coup attempt in 2016 should not be counted as eligible to vote. The AKP officials claim there were more than 14 thousand of such voters in Istanbul where the CHP candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won the municipality with a narrow margin of more than 13 thousand votes. İmamoğlu was announced as the winner 17 days after the election after a number of objections and recounts asked by the AKP; he was the first CHP mayor in Istanbul after 25 years.
Erdoğan and Bahçeli claim there were irregularities in the Istanbul vote count, despite that was under full control of the Interior and Justice ministries of Erdoğan’s AKP government and they should be repeated.
As Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked in the first act of political violence after the election in Ankara, hundreds of thousands of people in different districts of Istanbul were celebrating the win of CHP’s İmamoğlu in peaceful demonstrations.
There is an interesting situation in Turkey. Despite the 16 years of uninterrupted rule of the AKP endorsed by a constitutional change concentrating all executive power in presidential hands thanks to MHP backing and now nearly 90 percent of the media is owned by businessmen close to Erdoğan, half of Turkish voters keep disagreeing that. The local elections have also demonstrated that half of Turkish voters have been trying for a better quality, pluralistic democracy, in resilient maturity despite sceptics in the West were trying to abandon Turkey because of their objection of Erdoğan government policies. It can be observed that the Turkish government bloc have difficulties in acknowleding the election results with hopes that it should not cause any further political violence.