Anti-Erdogan camp uniting for polls

Gathering for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the upcoming presidential election, university rectors issued a powerful statement yesterday, against a possible bid by PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Anti-Erdogan camp uniting for polls

Gathering for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the upcoming presidentialelection, university rectors issued a powerful statement yesterday emphasizingthat the next president must be impartial and elected through consensus,remarks seen directed against a possible bid by Prime Minister Recep TayyipErdoðan to seek the top state post.

"The president has the duty to preserve the balance andharmonious working amongst constitutional institutions as well as ofrepresenting the republic and the Turkish nation," the Committee ofRectors, gathering under the chairmanship of the staunchly secular HigherEducation Board (YÖK) Chairman Erdoðan Teziç, said in the statement. "Itis clear that fulfilling such a duty requires impartiality."

Whether Erdoðan will stand in elections next month is a matter of deeppublic curiosity, but he has remained tightlipped, revealing nothing but thatthe next president will be a current member of Parliament. Opponents of hispossible presidency fear that his taking the top post would undermine thesecular nature of the state by opening the way for appointment of like-mindedbureaucrats to state offices.

The Committee of Rectors also declared support for a legally contestedargument pursued by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) that atleast 367 deputies must be present to begin voting on the next president andimplied that past accusations of corruption against Erdoðan and his perceivedIslamic tendencies should be an obstacle to his presidency.

"It is extremely important that those who aspire to becomepresident not face any accusation that could expose past liabilities," thestatement, read out by Teziç, said. "It is a constitutional requirementthat the candidates accept and are loyal to the fundamental characteristics ofthe republic, including, most notably, the principle of secularism."

According to Teziç, the last elections, held in 2002, also resulted in a"weakness in representation" of the voters in Parliament, given thatparties or candidates that received a total of 45 percent of the vote failed toenter Parliament due to an election threshold. "It is inevitable that aconsensus is imperative to make sure that this weakness in representation isnot reflected in the election of the president," he said.

Insisting that at least two-third of the members of Parliament, or 367deputies, must be present at the voting session for president, the CHP has alsosaid it would not attend the session and vowed to take the election to theConstitutional Court for annulment if less than 367 deputies are present. Teziçsaid yesterday that at least 367 deputies as well as the Parliament speakerpresiding over the session should be present.

A number of nongovernmental organizations, led by the anti-governmentKemalist Thought Association (ADD), are planning to stage a demonstration onApril 14 to denounce prospects of Erdoðan taking over the presidency.

If he stands as a candidate, Erdoðan is almost certain to win, given theoverwhelming majority of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) inParliament. YÖK, a strong critic of government and its higher educationpolicies, is backing the rally and, given its power in determining theappointments and promotions of academics, observers says this support wouldtranslate into a high turnout from universities at the event.

Responding to questions after reading out the statement, Teziç said hewould not attend the rally since he heads an official institution and suggestedthat YÖK would not force academics to attend, saying people have the freedom toattend, or not to attend, rallies and demonstrations. The AK Party has accusedthe main opposition CHP of secretly organizing the April 14 rally.

Yesterday, CHP leader Deniz Baykal said his party did not have any"institutional link" to the rally, although he said he welcomed the gathering.With the CHP declining to offer open support for the rally, some ADD membershave been visiting Parliament to convince CHP deputies to attend the rally at Ankara's Tandoðan Square.

Though the ADD is working hard to garner support from labor unions, ithas not yet fully achieved its goal. Turkey's largest labor union,Türk-Ýþ, has declined to lend full support to the rally, while the smaller butstill significant Hak-Ýþ is reportedly cool towards it. While the CHP issympathetic towards the rally, other opposition parties are reportedlyapproaching the demonstration with caution.

Even Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who has vowedto step down if Erdoðan moves to the Çankaya Presidential Palace, has not lenthis support to the ADD rally. As for DYP leader Mehmet Aðar, his response waseven less enthusiastic, as he declined to even give an appointment to formercommander Þener Eruygur, who is lobbying to win support for the rally.

Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) Chairman Erkan Mumcu has reportedly not issued aresponse to Eruygur's request for a meeting.

In the run-up to the rally, a group of retired military officers alsoappear to be extending full support to the event. Meetings have intensifiedbetween retired Gendarmerie Commander Eruygur and retired Gen. Rýza Küçükoðlu,who heads the Retired Officers Foundation.

Küçükoðlu has been holding meetings with CHP leader Baykal and otherpolitical parties, and following the meetings, the deputy president of the ADD,Ali Ercan, was accompanied by a delegation on a visit to President Ahmet NecdetSezer at Çankaya. Following this meeting, Sezer began a process of meeting oneby one with ADD regional heads from all over Turkey. These meetings are stillreportedly continuing.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16