ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – “Tesla’s owner Elon visited us. Not you, Muharrem.”
Thus, addressed the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday to his most prominent rival Muharrem Ince in the run-up to this month’s presidential and general elections, citing Tesla Inc chief executive and SpaceX Elon Musk’s meeting with him in late 2017 in Ankara.
In the Turkish language, people in influential positions refer to themselves in the first-person plural instead of the singular to “show humbleness.”
Erdogan, the incumbent, was talking to a rally his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) held in the northwestern metropolitan city of Kocaeli, a 1.8 million urban area of heavy industry with a large worker population majority originally from Central Anatolia and the Kurdish region.
It was the second time since he announced snap polls back in April that the Turkish strongman proudly used Musk’s sitting down with him as an argument against Ince, a former high school physics teacher.
“Some time ago Elon Musk visited me. The famous Tesla’s owner. Did he visit you? He visited me! I have started meeting with those [like him]. We are talking about the technology of the future,” Erdogan had said during another election rally.
During his trip to Ankara, the Tech billionaire had discussed with Erdogan rocket launches by Turkey’s national satellite firm and cooperation between his companies and Turkish firms.
Apart from high-tech and “perhaps sending astronauts, etc. to space,” Erdogan has also promised to build teahouses with books where people can enjoy “free tea and cakes” in a country that has blocked Wikipedia since April 2017.
Ince is a sitting lawmaker of the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a combative politician who, many Turkish pundits argue, put Erdogan into a defensive position for the first time in over 15 years.
Ince has urged Erdogan to prove that he has a university degree, one of the requirements of nomination to the office of president, by making a BA degree certificate public.
Despite being challenged by other rivals, Erdogan has consistently refused to appear in a televised debate, though he targets them with accusations of being anti-Islam, destroying mosques, receiving support from Western countries and supporting “terrorism.”
Erdogan’s other rival for president, Selahattin Demirtas, the country’s most influential Kurdish politician and former Co-leader of the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is in prison.
This is the first time in modern Turkey’s history and the only current such case in the world that a candidate is running for president from behind bars.
Ince’s prison visit last month to Demirtas has become an oft-repeated talking point to delegitimize CHP and HDP “terrorist sympathizers.”
“Didn’t Muharrem see the person who is the leader of terrorism,” Erdogan has said several times over the week, although Demirtas has not been convicted of any crime and charges against him are based on his political speeches and activities.
Authorities keep him detained for over 18 months now as prosecutors demand up to 142 years in jail for ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—a group fighting Ankara for larger Kurdish rights—and “terrorism.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany