Erdoğan Says Rivals Will be Crushed
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, rallying hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in Istanbul, said on Sunday that political enemies accusing him of corruption would be crushed by their own immorality.
The rally on the shores of the Sea of Marmara marked the climax of weeks of campaigning for March 30 local polls that may decide his political fate. Tens of thousands more gathered outside the rally grounds and clambered over fences to get in.
Massed supporters cheered, called Erdogan’s name and waved red Turkish flags and the blue and gold emblems of the AK Party he founded in 2001 and led to power a year later vowing to root out the corruption that had dogged his rivals.
As the vote nears, audio tapes of telephone conversations have appeared on websites almost daily purporting to expose corruption around Erdogan.
The prime minister accuses the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers of manufacturing a police corruption investigation that touched on business associates, government members and Erdogan’s own family.
“Whatever threats, blackmail or slander you throw out, you will be crushed beneath the immorality of these montages,” Erdogan said from a platform flanked by banners with his portrait. “The people can see the game that is being played.”
Erdogan described the influential Hizmet network of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, in a speech on Saturday as a terrorist organization.
Turkey blocked the Twitter social networking site, a vehicle for many of the audio tapes, last week, drawing accusations from
Western governments and rights groups of an attack on democratic values. Erdogan responded at a smaller rally earlier on Sunday.
“The usual media are attacking us. What do they call it? ‘Intolerance of freedoms’,” he said. “I don’t care who it is, I’m not listening.
“This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots … I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”
Ultimately, much could hinge on the opposition regaining the leadership and momentum it has lacked since 2002. Back then, Erdogan drew on public anger over corruption in Turkey’s old political elite and named his new party AK, an acronym for Justice and Development but also a word meaning clean or white.