Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said people who are attacking him and an election alliance he has with a far-right nationalist party are actually enemies of Turkey, Turkish media outlets reported.
“Those who are attacking this brother of yours and the Public Alliance [with the Nationalist Movement Party] are actually acting as enemies of our ideal for a great and strong Turkey and of Turkey itself,” Erdoğan said at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara over the weekend.
It is common for Erdoğan, whose AKP has been ruling Turkey as a single party government since 2002, to associate his party and himself with Turkey.
Erdoğan drew criticism from an opposition politician due to his remarks equating himself with Turkey. Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a former AKP politician and a current member of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), tweeted, “For an elected person to see themselves as being equal to the state means rejecting the existence of a state governed by the constitution and loyalty to the law.”
Yeneroğlu said a person who’s the subject of democratic scrutiny and criticism should stay at home rather than in the president’s office.
Erdoğan attracts widespread criticism for having little tolerance for his critics and opponents. He frequently files criminal complaints against people on charges of insulting him or sues opposition politicians on charges of attacking his personal rights.
Insulting the president is subject to criminal charges under the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), and thousands of people in the country are under investigation, with most of them facing the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of Erdoğan. Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.
The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.