Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday declared that his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) recent electoral victory in nationwide local elections had, per Reuters, “given him a mandate to ‘liquidate’ the enemies” who he accuses of being behind a still-spiraling graft scandal that has ensnared top AKP elites and plunged the country into open political warfare:
In his first parliamentary speech since his ruling AK Party dominated March 30 municipal polls, Erdogan said “traitors” responsible for a stream of graft allegations and the illegal tapping of thousands of phones would be brought to account.
“March 30 is the day when the page was turned on tutelage, when the monuments of hubris were felled, and the privileges (of an elite) were lost forever,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan had used his victory speech following those elections to announce that he would make his rivals “pay” for having opposed him. The threat, along with efforts to shut down access to Twitter and YouTube on the eve of the polling, was subsequently cited as the source of potentially irreparable tensions between Turkey and the European Union. Turkish courts subsequently ordered those restrictions lifted, but those decisions have either been reversed or are being fought by the government.
Ankara for instance fought a court order to lift its ban on YouTube, and a later ruling by a different court granted the government’s request. Google, which owns YouTube, is now fighting to appeal the blackout. The order to reinstate access to Twitter, meanwhile, has been blasted by top Turkish officials – including by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Monday and by Erdogan himself on Tuesday – who continue to call for its reversal.
Washington’s Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone denounced the restrictions in an interview published earlier this week by Turkey’s Hurriyet daily:
Americans simply cannot understand how, especially during an election campaign … such a government, which is such a close friend and ally whom we always regard as a member of the Euro-Atlantic club of first class democracies – put a flat-out ban on Twitter and YouTube. It makes no sense to us. Because we consider Turkey as a Western state of law and democracy. The damage from the campaign is something that is still playing out in Turkey’s international standing… I am glad that Twitter is back in service and hope that YouTube likewise will quickly be unblocked.
[Photo: Cihan Haber Ajansı / YouTube ]