There is a strange equation here. President Tayyip Erdoğan, or those courting favor of him, think that they discredit opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu by obstructing his attempts to visit public institutions. Yet, oddly enough, it was Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) itself that rose to power by benefitting from being the obstructed party. And now, with its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), they pursue a policy of blocking the opposition by exercising state power over them.
They seem to have forgotten how the dismissal and imprisonment of the once Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan victimized and elevated him in the public’s eyes. Now, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who also wants the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and the Constitutional court to be closed, wants Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality President Ekrem İmamoğlu to be dismissed. Will Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu take this step as well? Will he do it?
“Let them do it,” says Kılıçdaroğlu; “For all of us, we say thank you for the gesture”.
“We do not take what Bahçeli said very seriously”, he added twice at the breakfast press conference he held with representatives of internet media on 30 December.
“Those who want to remove the Mayor from his job must have lost their minds. We welcome police or inspector. We have no fear,” he adds.
Two warnings to power: Istanbul and “special desk”
“Don’t they think citizens will not question that move?” says the CHP leader.
“They did it [on the 23 June 2019 election repetition] in Istanbul. What happened? 13 difference increased to 800 thousand. (…) Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality started to investigate possible corruption; the Ministry of Internal Affairs confiscated files and documents so that no one could see them. Now they say terrorism. Why would they dismiss the Mayor? Mr. Numan [Kurtulmuş] said it well. Nothing will happen,” he said.
“They were going to make a criminal complaint; let them file it. We know that our phones are being tapped. We also know that special desks are set up,” he added.
When asked “What are special desks,” he just smiled, adding “(Interior Minister) Süleyman Soylu understands what the special desks mean. We will not take a step back.”
Was the CHP leader implying that special units were established within the Internal Affairs to monitor political party activities? He did not give details. But these two issues seem to be two warnings to the government.
“The judges of the cases that I was tried for insulting the president change so that I can be fined. But I won anyway. Some judges rule according to the instruction from above. They keep Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş in prison. As [President’s Legal Adviser Mehmet] Uçum puts the ‘one-man government’ regime.”
If the TL raised their morale, let’s go for an election
I observed an increase in morale and self-confidence in Kılıçdaroğlu, just as I observed the day before in DEVA leader Ali Babacan and in IYI Party Meral Akşener last week. It is as if Erdogan once said, quoting the poet Ece Ayhan, “in short/ they shot/ we abound”.
A colleague reminded that Erdoğan and the government gained morale after the interest rate cuts and the increase in TL value after new fiscal moves.
Kılıçdaroğlu gave the following answer:
“Turkey experienced its biggest robbery. What is the size of this robbery? Who made the hit? Treasury, Central Bank, public banks all were involved. But they can’t keep the balance. When the parliament opens, we will submit a parliamentary question. Let them answer the question and let the banks give the data. Then everything will come out. But they will definitely reject it with the MHP votes,”
“84 million people work for a handful of people. The Central Bank lowered the interest rate, but did the interest rate decrease in the market? Have interest rates on credit cards dropped? Have farmer loan rates decreased? Does Erdogan know about this? Erdogan lives in his world,” he said.
“If they say, with this, morale has been gained, they should bring the ballot box immediately. Let’s see the moral superiority,” he added.
We will be the first party; young people will take us to power
The CHP leader stated that the main opposition party’s voters do not make great leaps, but it “increases steadily and healthily.” He said that the surveys show around 28 percent vote, which usually swings around 23 to 25 percent.
“We will surpass the AKP; we will be the first party in the upcoming period, whatever Erdoğan does,” he said.
I remembered the anchorwomen who laughed at Kılıçdaroğlu on a live television interview when he said, “we will take Istanbul” before the 2019 local elections. İmamoğlu took power afterwards.
“There is distrust in Erdoğan and his power in the society,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
He also emphasized the young generation who will vote for the first time in the next election. “They want freedom,” he said, adding that the so-called GenZ is more libertarian and “they do not want to be affiliated with any party.”
He said that the CHP appears to be 42 percent among them, which almost constitute 6 percent of the total votes.
“There are many among them who want to go abroad. I say that they should not be in despair; they should go to the polls and cast their votes,” he added. “Young people will carry us to power.”
Journalists could not resist asking Kılıçdaroğlu about the possible candidate of the opposition, even if they knew the answer.
“First, let’s agree on the constitution of the parliamentary regime with the 6 opposition party, then decide the transition process, let the election calendar be cleared, then we will talk,” he said, repeating his previous answers.
What happened after these words?
Kılıçdaroğlu went to the Ministry of National Education after this meeting. He wanted to ask National Education Minister Mahmut Özer why young people who were successful in the central exam were eliminated in the interviews. In addition, he wanted to emphasize recently surfaced lists of pro-government foundation Turkish Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), which included specific names appointed to certain positions and certain references alongside them.
The door of the Ministry was chained. Özer said that “his door is closed to such impromptu visits.”
At night, Interior Inspectors started working in Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality buildings. Despite objections from his own party, Soylu does not seem to give up on İmamoğlu. With the full support of MHP leader Bahçeli and President Erdoğan, he solidifies his image as perhaps the most powerful minister in the cabinet, and maintains his place close to Erdoğan in the lists of political acclaim.