Speaking at his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) provincial congress in Ankara on Feb. 17, President Tayyip Erdoğan named main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu “shameless” and “disgraced bloke.” Erdoğan insulted the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader because he raised questions on why 13 Turkish security officials and soldiers, who were kidnapped by the PKK, could not be rescued and murdered by the outlawed organization. However, the Directorate of Communications of the Presidency, which is also in charge of the website of the Presidency, did not include Erdoğan’s words on Kılıçdaroğlu in the online script of his speech. Obviously, the Directorate of Communications did not find it appropriate to put those words on the website.
Though, Erdoğan named Kılıçdaroğlu what roughly translates as “poor old man” in another speech later in the day. Erdoğan spared the start of his speech awaited by millions who want to hear about the next measures against the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to go over Kılıçdaroğlu for raising questions and making comments on the fallen citizens.
Kılıçdaroğlu: Morality is more important than outlook
Kılıçdaroğlu posted a video on Twitter to respond to Erdoğan’s words about him, saying that “Morality is more important than outlook.”
The CHP leader not only condemned Erdoıan’s words but also filed a 5-penny insult case “to show the value he attaches to him.”
Özgür Özel, one of the CHP’s parliamentary group spokespersons, said at a 22-second press conference that they “return Erdoğan’s words to him.”
Kılıçdaroğlu said that Erdogan was trying to silence the opposition by insulting him because he did not have answers questions about the incident. But on the other hand, he said, “I will get the answers to five questions”, adding that he would prove that “Erdoğan is responsible for the martyrs.”
According to Erdoğan, it was “shameless” to keep asking questions even after he sent Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu to inform Kılıçdaroğlu (and İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener) regarding the Gara operation. Yes, according to backstage information, the opposition was informed about the incident but Kılıçdaroğlu’s five questions are about why nothing was done to date to rescue 13 officials and soldiers who were kidnapped between 2015 and 2017.
Akşener: We are tired of being ashamed on your behalf
Kılıçdaroğlu is not the only one asking Erdoğan for the account of the murders by the PKK.
“What was this operation for?” asked Felicity Party leader Temel Karamollaoğlu said. He wants to know whether it was planned as an operation to strike the PKK in Iraq’s Gara or as a rescue operation. Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu emphasizes that the two operations are very different from each other and argued that the responsibility is Erdoğan, who “mixed” these two and spoke about the operation beforehand.
Both Karamollaoğlu and Akşener criticize Erdoğan for producing political material out of the incident by calling the mother of a fallen soldier from the AKP Ankara congress live.”We are tired of being ashamed on your behalf, you are not tired of embarrassing us,” said Akşener, referring to the phone call.
Meanwhile, there is a harsh debate between Erdoğan’s election partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who wants the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP)to be shut down and the Constitutional Court to be dismantled, and Ali Babacan, the leader of the DEVA Party, who says MHY is also responsible for the wrongdoings of the government.
Reforms pending, external issues too
In the shadow of all these development, Erdoğan is yet to announce the content of the judicial and economic reforms that he pledged in November. The debate on the matter has been replaced by the discussion on a new Constitution. But to proceed on the matter, Erdoğan and Bahçeli first have to reach a consensus on “secularism” and “Turkish as the official language.”
As for the international issues… After Joe Biden taking the seat in the U.S., the first NATO meeting started on Feb. 17 with a video conference also attended by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and it continues into today. It is a venue for the debate on Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and the U.S.’ seize of F.35 jets that Turkey has already paid for in retaliation. Prior to the meeting, NATO, announced that it presented Turkey with a proposal on NATO-compatible air defense systems. Akar’s recent remarks on Turkey’s wish to return to the F-35 program, and Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın’s meeting request on S-400 (despite the U.S. has declared that there has been no change in the policy on the issue) might have played role in NATO’s new proposal.
It is also remarkable that Biden had an hour-long phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the crucial meeting. It is known that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thinks Israel is the sole country in the Middle East that should hold F-35s, regardless of the S-400 problem.
Tensions in foreign policy and the economy
As announced in its October 2020 meeting, the European Union hereinafter will make strategic calls about Turkey in coordination with the US. The EU had postponed the Turkey issue in that summit to the next one on March 25 and 26 to wait for Biden to take the seat.
Erdoğan’s fine-tuning in the economy with the support of big businesses, instead of introducing reforms, has pulled the value of the U.S. currency to below 7 liras per dollar from an alarming high. In the short term, neither the U.S. nor the EU is expected to rule on sanctions that would shake the Turkish economy. But everyone remembers how Turkey’s financial outlook deteriorated following a single Tweet by former U.S. President Donald Trump amid the crisis between the two countries on the arrest of U.S. citizen Pastor Brunson in 2018.
Erdoğan wants to meet the changes in foreign policy by reconstructing the AKP and changing the “factory settings.”
He is furiıous because he wants to raise anger against the opposition at provincial congresses until the general party congress in late March to make the changes it wants possible. But sometimes he misses the balance. The rhetoric of the president, who is responsible for setting an example, reaches a level of insults that even his own communication office feels the need to censor his words. This is not a nice picture.