A war of words between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a rival in upcoming elections on June 24, Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce, over Second Army Commander Lt. Gen. İsmail Metin Temel, who applauded a speech delivered by Erdoğan criticizing İnce, was fueled further by the two leaders during rallies on Tuesday.
İnce had reacted angrily after Lt. Gen. Temel’s applause was circulated in the media, saying: “I will strip his epaulettes off. Are you a general of the Turkish military or a provincial head of the AKP [Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party]? Everyone should know their limits.”
After responding to İnce during a rally in Konya, saying he has a special relationship with Temel due to the Afrin operation in northern Syria, Erdoğan today also brought up the discussion at a rally in Sakarya.
“Who are you? You wouldn’t dare to strip those epaulettes off. Would you put them on [Selahattin] Demirtaş?” he said.
In a recent campaign speech, Erdoğan blamed jailed politician and presidential rival Demirtaş for the killing of 53 people during street protests in Turkey’s Southeast in 2014, insisting he could not be released.
Erdoğan also today gave a speech in Zonguldak province, again heating up the debate by saying that according to the constitution he is the commander in chief and that he can sit at the same table with generals.
İnce, on the other hand, slammed Erdoğan’s remarks in Aydın province today, reminding him that he had stripped off generals’ epaulettes during the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases in the early 2010s, in which high-ranking officers were tried for planning a coup against the government.
“Did you put those epaulettes on FETÖ?” İnce said.
FETÖ is a derogatory term coined by the AKP government to refer to members of the Gülen movement, which was accused by some Turkish secularists and nationalist of responsibility for the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials.