Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was denied entry to the headquarters of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), which has been facing claims of manipulating inflation data for political reasons, local media reported on Friday.
“I asked for an appointment at TurkStat, [but] they didn’t give me one. I’m going [there] at 11:00 [a.m.], just so you know,” the CHP leader said in a tweet addressing the institute, before heading for the office.
When Kılıçdaroğlu arrived, along with several other CHP officials, the security guards refused to let them into the building, saying they couldn’t allow anyone without an appointment into the headquarters.
“TurkStat is no longer a state institution. It has become a palace institution,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters after the incident, criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s influence on the statistical body.
The CHP leader’s attempt to get into the headquarters took place after TurkStat on Friday announced the country’s inflation rate, which climbed to 21.31 percent, up from 19.89 percent in October. It is the highest figure the country has seen in three years, eating into the incomes of Turks.
“This [body] announces the inflation rate. The figures released today aren’t reassuring. … It is my fundamental duty to protect the rights of millions of workers, retirees and civil servants. … We were going to ask them where they got their data,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Friday criticized Kılıçdaroğlu’s attempt to go to TurkStat headquarters, accusing him of aiming to “raid” the office like “criminal organizations” would do.
“Kılıçdaroğlu resorts to methods that haven’t been seen in our entire political history due to his links to crime and criminal organizations,” the minister said on Twitter.
Responding to Soylu’s remarks, CHP deputy group chairman Engin Özkoç tweeted: “The doors of the state cannot be closed to the representatives of the nation! [A person] who mentions [the names of] the representatives of the nation along with terrorist organizations can’t be an interior minister. At best, he can be a hitman for the palace [Erdoğan].”
In 2019 opposition parties submitted parliamentary questions to then-Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, son-in-law of Erdoğan, over claims that TurkStat tweaked inflation data for political reasons, claims dismissed as groundless by the head of the institute.
Erdoğan has replaced the head of TurkStat four times since April 2019, paving the way for claims that he wasn’t pleased with the TurkStat figures when they were higher than his expectations.
Over the past several years, Turkey has been suffering from backsliding in its economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.