Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will become one of the few dictators in history to lose power through democratic means, leading opposition politician Canan Kaftancıoğlu said in a speech on Saturday.
Kaftancıoğlu’s speech to youth members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) came as Turkey’s political climate continues to heat up, with less than a year remaining until the next national elections, and support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at a historic low.
“We will perhaps achieve a first in the history of the world by relying on our party, our party’s principles, your youth, yourselves and our chairman [Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu] who made your dreams his aims, the opportunities our chairman offers you, and the energy you have created and built up for our party,” Kaftancıoğlu said.
“We will overthrow a dictator in this country through democracy,” she added.
The remarks drew outrage from figures in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, who said Kaftancıoğlu’s description of the president flew in the face of Turkish voters’ will.
AKP spokesman Ömer Çelik condemned Kaftancıoğlu’s statements in a Twitter thread, saying that the real attack on democracy came from politicians who ignored the voters who elected Erdoğan in 2018.
“A representative of Istanbul’s politics of hate has targeted our President, calling him a ‘dictator’. Those who behave with this political immorality are disrespecting the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey,” he said.
“At the same time, they target the national will. This is the real anti-democracy,” he continued.
As the CHP’s Istanbul Provincial President, Kaftancıoğlu was one of the driving forces behind the CHP’s shock victory in the 2019 Istanbul mayoral race. Later that year, she received a prison sentence for terror-related charges and for insulting the president.
The Turkish Court of Cassation stripped Kaftancıoğlu of her CHP membership on June 14 as part of the court’s political ban order against the popular politician.
Though the court decision means Kaftancıoğlu is no longer officially the president of the CHP’s Istanbul branch, the party has said it will continue to treat her as such.