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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Erdogan ally pays for newspaper advert to criticise president's supporters

Devlet Bahceli paid for advertising in two major papers to criticise pundits, journalists and pollsters

epa06839181 A man passes a stand displaying Turkish newspapers in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 June 2018. Some 56.3 million registered citizens voted in snap presidential and parliamentary elections to elect 600 lawmakers and the country's president, the first election since the Turkish people in a referendum in April 2017 voted to change the country's system from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. EPA/SRDJAN SUKI
epa06839181 A man passes a stand displaying Turkish newspapers in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 June 2018. Some 56.3 million registered citizens voted in snap presidential and parliamentary elections to elect 600 lawmakers and the country's president, the first election since the Turkish people in a referendum in April 2017 voted to change the country's system from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. EPA/SRDJAN SUKI

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nationalist ally, who’s set to be a key power-broker in parliament after Sunday’s election, published a list of opinion-formers he accused of discrediting his party “non-stop” before the vote.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), took out an advertisement in two of Turkey’s widest-read newspapers with the sarcastic headline “A Thank You Message.” Under a huge picture of Mr Bahceli, with a Turkish flag in the background, appeared a list of some 70 people. Pollsters and academics were on it, but most of those named were journalists - including several who write for the papers that carried the ad.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the main ally of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks to the media at his party's headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, late Sunday, June 24, 2018. Erdogan has claimed victory in critical elections based on unofficial results, securing an executive presidency with sweeping powers. (MHP Press Service via AP)
Devlet Bahceli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the main ally of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks to the media at his party's headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, late Sunday, June 24, 2018. MHP Press Service via AP

“I thank them for their countless slanders. I thank them for their shocking claims,” Mr Bahceli says in the advertisement. “We will never forget what they have done, what they have written, what they have destroyed.”

The advertisement appeared in pro-government newspapers Hurriyet and Sabah. Many of the journalists named are known for their frequent articles in praise of Mr Bahceli’s election ally, Mr Erdoğan. Turkey had the world’s highest number of journalists in jail last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Mr Erdoğan’s government has been widely criticized for suppressing freedom of the press.

Mr Bahceli declined to run for president and asked his supporters to back Mr Erdoğan in that contest. In parliamentary balloting, his party did better than all pollsters forecast, winning 11 per cent of the vote. That allowed Mr Erdoğan’s alliance to secure control of the legislature - but it also means that the president will be reliant on Mr Bahceli’s support for decrees that require a majority in parliament, giving the nationalist chief some leverage to pursue his own agenda.

Mr Bahceli has called for an amnesty that would allow some of Turkey’s most notorious mafia bosses to get out of jail.

epa06839122 People pose in front of nostalgic tram on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 June 2018. Some 56.3 million registered citizens voted in snap presidential and parliamentary elections to elect 600 lawmakers and the country's president, the first election since the Turkish people in a referendum in April 2017 voted to change the country's system from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. EPA/SRDJAN SUKI
People pose in front of nostalgic tram on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey, 25 June 2018. EPA/SRDJAN SUKI

Journalists responded to Mr Bahceli’s advertisement on social media. “Just so you know, I will keep opposing your insistence on a general amnesty as much as the power of my pen permits,” Haberturk writer Sevilay Yilman, whose name featured on the list, said via Twitter.

The alliance between former rivals Mr Bahceli and Mr Erdoğan was cemented after a failed coup attempt against the president in 2016. The MHP’s history stretches back almost half a century, and in the 1970s it was associated with political assassinations and street violence by far-right gangs, though under Mr Bahceli it has shifted toward the mainstream.

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Meanwhile, the leader of Turkey's main opposition party refused to congratulate Mr Erdoğan on his decisive election victory, describing the strongman as a "dictator" running a one-man regime.

The secular Republican People's Party (CHP) chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu chose Muharrem Ince to challenge Mr Erdoğan in the presidential elections. Mr Ince polled a respectable 30.6 per cent but failed to force a second round.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition Republican People's Party leader, speaks to the media in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, two days after elections in Turkey. Kilicdaroglu maintained that the ruling party's loss of its majority would cripple president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AP Photo)
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition Republican People's Party leader, speaks to the media in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, two days after elections in Turkey. (AP Photo)

But his first comments since Mr Erdoğan was declared winner, Mr Kilicdaroglu sounded the alarm over the new powers the president would assume under constitutional changes that now come into force.

"You cannot congratulate someone who ties the executive, judicial and legislative organs to themselves. You cannot congratulate someone who defends a one-man regime. What are you congratulating?" Mr Kilicdaroglu told reporters.

"If the person says they will run with a one-man regime to the end, why should I congratulate a dictator?" said Mr Kilicdaroglu.

Mr Ince on Monday said he accepted the results and would call Mr Erdoğan to congratulate him. His advisors were not immediately available to confirm if he had done so.

But amid signs of post-poll strains within the CHP, Mr Kilicdaroglu tetchily brushed off suggestions he should resign and possibly hand over the reins to the more charismatic Mr Ince.

He insisted the "loser" of the elections was the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Mr Erdoğan after its vote fell in parliamentary polls but did not criticise himself or the CHP even though its vote also fell.

Kilicdaroglu criticised the "pressure, bribery and threats" during the election campaign while said there was no fraud in the vote itself.

The CHP chief said the "fight was not fought under equal conditions".

But in a comment regarded as ungracious by some on social media, Kilicdaroglu said Ince's vote was "below expectations".