Özlem Akarsu Çelik / DUVAR

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that the citizens will hand power to those advocating democracy in the next elections, adding that it doesn’t specifically has to be his party.

“We’re saying that the government will change via elections. Our citizens will vote for us who advocate democracy, transparency, checks and justice in all areas of life. By us, I don’t mean the CHP only. It encompasses all political parties who aim for such a government,” Kılıçdaroğlu told Duvar, adding that he doesn’t expect the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to give up power.

“The people are seeing that our beautiful country is not being governed properly and that we’re heading downhill like a truck with no brakes. They also know that the only way to get rid of this course depends on their choice in the next elections,” he added.

‘A wide social agreement’

Saying that the government change will take place as a result of a wide social agreement, Kılıçdaroğlu noted that it will be an election victory that everyone would see themselves taking part in.

“The AKP’s efforts to make the opposition seem like an enemy are meaningless and will yield no results. The government knows this as much as we do,” he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu also commented on the recent debate that started after he said that a number of CHP lawmakers can quit and join the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and Future Party, both founded by former AKP officials, to secure their run in elections.

In return, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, a staunch ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP, has stepped in to complicate new parties’ efforts to form parliamentary groups necessary for them to run in elections, in a bid to cover the AKP’s concerns on losing deputies.

Both the Future and DEVA parties are relatively new, with the former found in December 2019 by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the latter in March by former deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

‘AKP-MHP will also support a democratic parliamentary system’

“I don’t find it appropriate to comment on Bahçeli’s suggestions. Our aim is to strengthen democracy in Turkey. Bahçeli’s preference is a different direction,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“However, I’m certain that our brothers from the AKP and the MHP will provide great support to a democratic parliamentary system. They’ll say, ‘Yes, a democratic parliamentary system is a need for our country.’ I believe that,” he added.

Turkish voters said “yes” to shifting the country’s governance system to an executive presidency with a controversial referendum on constitutional amendments on April 16, 2017.

The country shifted to the system officially on July 9, 2018, replacing a 95-year-old parliamentary system.

The system granted sweeping powers to Erdoğan and allowed him to be both the AKP leader and the president at the same time.

During the interview, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş for its controversial remarks on LGBT individuals and women’s rights.

‘Politics should not enter military barracks, mosques and courthouses’

“We don’t find making the Turkish Armed Forces and Diyanet a subject of hot political debates. As I said in the past, politics should not enter military barracks, mosques and courthouses. These three spheres must not be those that politics and politicians establish dominance,” he said.

“Regarding Erbaş’s statements, two former Diyanet heads, Ali Bardakoğlu and Mehmet Görmez, said what’s necessary. Bardakoğlu even expressed his thoughts before such a debate erupted as if he predicted what was coming. I find the statements of these two theologians valuable,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.

Erbaş on April 24 targeted LGBT individuals in a sermon, saying, “Homosexuality causes diseases and decays lineage,” citing a verse from the Koran.

“Islam accepts adultery as one of the biggest sins [haram]. It curses homosexuality, because it causes diseases and decay to lineage,” Erbaş said in the sermon marking the first day of Ramadan amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are exposed to the HIV virus caused by living out of wedlock, which is called adultery in Islamic literature, each year. Let’s struggle together to protect people from these types of evils,” he added.