ISTANBUL:Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sunday’s elections risks seeing his vote critically eroded by an unlikely foe — a religiously conservative party with roots in the same Islamic political ideology as his own.
Temel Karamollaoglu, the mild-mannered but strong-willed leader of the Saadet (Felicity) Party, is among the opposition candidates standing against Erdogan and hoping to push him to at least a second round.
And with parliamentary polls being held on the same day, Saadet has joined an alliance of opposition parties that wants to rob the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of its majority.
For Erdogan to win the presidential poll, he needs at least 50 percent to guarantee outright victory in the first round.
While Saadet and Karamollaoglu are at best expected to improve on their last result by a couple of percentage points, this alone could be enough to tip the balance in what many pundits predict to be a very tight election.
Saadet emerged from the same political movement as Erdogan’s late mentor Necmettin Erbakan who for the first time brought political Islam at the centre of politics in the officially secular country.
The 77-year-old Karamollaoglu, leader of Saadet since 2016, told AFP his party fell out with Erdogan’s AKP after it moved away from key principles.
“Mr Erdogan declared those principles in the 2002 elections: justice, democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of thought. But he appears to have put them on the shelf now,” he said.
Saadet also backed the “No” side in the April 2017 referendum to oppose a package of constitutional amendments granting Erdogan sweeping executive powers.
“There might be a president’s office but there also must be a strong parliament. And the justice system must be far from their influence,” he said.—AFP