Rivals kick off Turkish election campaign

Turkish prime minister Erdogan launches campaign to win a third term while opposition leader pledges new constitution.

    Opposition leader Kilicdaroglu, centre, said his party would initiate major reforms, including constitutional ones [EPA]

    Turkey's main parties have kicked off their electoral campaigns ahead of parliamentary elections in June which could hand prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a third term in office, local media reported.

    Erdogan launched his re-election campaign on Friday in the northern province of Bayburt by explaining the government's economic vision and slamming the opposition, according to the English-language Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review.

    Erdogan's Islamist-influenced Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won landslide victories in 2002 and 2007 despite opposition from Turkey's secularist establishment.

    Last year, Erdogan won public support to implement a raft of sweeping constitutional reforms, including reshaping the judiciary and curbs on the powers of the military, in a referendum seen as litmus test of his enduring popularity.

    Launching his party's manifesto, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads the traditionally secular Republic People's Party, or CHP, promised a new constitution accompanied by social and political reforms to establish greater freedoms for all citizens, including Turkey's Kurdish and Alevi minorities.

    Erdogan's stewardship of Turkey's successful economy is seen as crucial to his party's chances and on Friday he said his ambition was to make Turkey one of the world's top economies by 2023 and push gross domestic product to $2tn and per capita income to $25,000.

    "Now some will ask whether you have $25,000 in your pocket or not. Look, we are talking about expanding the economy. No one puts such money into anybody's pocket in any part of the world," said Erdogan, whose party came to power in 2002.

    The prime minister took a swipe at the opposition saying when it was in power Turks waited in queues for cooking oil and gas.

    "They [CHP] used to meet in the cabinet with overcoats on their backs because the heaters were out of use," said Erdogan.

    The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, also came in for criticism from the prime minister who alluded to the riots in the streets of eastern and southeastern Turkey in previous days and claimed the BDP and other parties were "rubbing their hands together [malevolently]" when the youth stoned the police.

    Turkey is home to a large Kurdish minority - numbering about one-fifth of the country's population of 75 million - but they complain about marginalisation and abuse of their rights. Since 1984 the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has waged a guerrilla campaign for an ethnic homeland in the southeast.

    The CHP's election manifesto anticipates a number of reforms with regard to the constitution, press freedom, electoral reform, agriculture and the economy.

    "The CHP is a party that realized significant transformations. We will now bring democracy and freedom to the country," Kilicdaroglu told supporters. "We will touch every field of life; we have projects related to every sphere of life ... Politics exists for the human being."

    If elected, the party will make a new constitution its priority, which will be prepared with contribution from all segments of society, the CHP chief said.

    The new charter would anticipate control over the military by civilian authority, a strengthened parliamentary system and separation of powers, while seeking equality.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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