Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Muharrem İnce, who has been nominated by his party as a presidential candidate for the June 24 presidential election, has promised to abolish an article in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) that criminalizes insulting the president.
Article 299 of the TCK states that anybody who insults the president of the republic can face a prison term of up to four years. This sentence can be increased by a sixth if committed publicly, and a third if committed by the press or media.
“[When I am elected president] I will eliminate the [insult] cases and the insult issue. Why would the people of my homeland insult me? I will not call them manure. As long as I do not insult them, my citizens will not insult me, either,” İnce said on Monday.
İnce was referring to recent remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) presidential candidate, who in a speech said the CHP means “manure” while criticizing former CHP governments for doing little for the country.
Since Erdoğan was elected president in August 2014, he has been accused of aggressively using Article 299 of the TCK as a way to stifle dissent. Thousands of people including celebrities, journalists and even youngsters have been tried on charges of insulting the president.
İnce also said he will not use a new and lavish presidential palace built on an order from Erdoğan if he becomes president and will turn the palace into a center of science.
The presidential complex, which was inaugurated in October 2014, has more than 1,100 rooms and a cost of half a billion Turkish lira.
“I will open the palace for six months and close it for six months. With the money saved, I will give scholarships to young people. I will give the palace to the brightest youth of our country who have made it to the first 5,000 [in the university entrance examination]. I will turn it into a center of science,” İnce said.
Another election promise made by İnce concerns Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem.
Speaking to BBC’s Turkish service on Sunday, İnce said there has been an environment of conflict in Turkey for 40 years and that he thinks the Kurdish problem could be resolved in Parliament.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.