İlnur Çevik, one of the chief advisors of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said the participation of İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener and jailed pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Selahattin Demirtaş in the presidential election as rivals to Erdoğan is a sign of democracy in Turkey.
In an article published in the Yeni Birlik daily on Tuesday, Çevik wrote: “If Meral Akşener, who is known to be a project of FETÖ, and her political movement can take part in the elections… If Selahattin Demirtaş, who pits people against each other, can be a presidential candidate, then what is there in the country if not democracy?”
FETÖ is a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization. They accuse the movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.
The government has jailed more than 50,000 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt and is accused of using the label of a Gülen follower to jail its critics.
Çevik said when one listens to the opponents of Turkey in the West and their extensions in Turkey, they may jump to the conclusion that there is no democracy in Turkey and that there is even one-man rule, but that is not the case.
“All the political parties easily conduct their election campaigns and say whatever they want. Nobody is under pressure, and there is not even a sign of OHAL [state of emergency] that they complain of,” said Çevik.
The government declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of the coup attempt, which is still in effect.
On Monday, an Ankara court rejected a request by his lawyers for the release of Demirtaş, who has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016. Demirtaş will remain in jail during the campaign period.