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Turkish police band performs AKP’s election song at graduation held in Erdoğan’s palace

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The Turkish police band performed a song composed for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election campaign during a graduation ceremony held at the presidential palace in Ankara on Tuesday, in another move seen by critics as the police force being involved in politics.

As Turkey readies for elections scheduled for June 2023, Erdoğan last week unveiled his vision of the “Century of Turkey” as part of his election campaign, calling on all Turkish citizens to “finish building a great and powerful country together” in a public event where a campaign song with the lyrics “Let the Century of Turkey begin. Right now, not tomorrow” was played.

According to local media reports, the same election song was performed by the country’s police band at the Police Academy graduation ceremony held in Erdoğan’s presidential palace on Tuesday.

The entire ceremony, at which both Erdoğan and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu addressed the graduates, was streamed on the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) YouTube channel.

The police band’s performance of the election campaign song, a move that indicates the loyalty of the police, who under law should be apolitical, to Erdoğan and his ruling party, drew criticism from the opposition.

Müsavat Dervişoğlu, group deputy chairman of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, said in a tweet on Tuesday that the performance was “a clear violation of the constitution.”

“To try to make our police a political support for the AKP, [the vote of] which is declining a little more every day, is to challenge the nation [and] to put dynamite on the foundation of social peace!” he added.

“The ‘Century of Turkey’ is the title and slogan of the AKP’s election campaign. Using this song at the … ceremony is a clear indication of a party state,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Veli Ağbaba also tweeted, adding that it’s “a shame” that the AKP government used the 177-year-old Security Directorate General (EGM) for their own propaganda.

The AKP government declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of the failed coup in the country on July 15, 2016, which remained in effect until July 19, 2018.

During the state of emergency, the AKP issued a number of government decrees, known as KHKs, through which around 130,000 public servants including academics, teachers, doctors, police officers, judges and prosecutors have been purged due to their real or alleged connections to terrorist organizations.

The AKP government is accused of dismissing experienced and competent police officers and filling the police force with its cronies. The force saw a major overhaul after corruption investigations of late 2013 in which Erdoğan’s close circle was implicated.

The police officers who took part in the investigations were first replaced and then arrested on charges of staging a coup against the government. They have been behind bars since July 2014.

In June the EGM dismissed from service or canceled the retirement benefits of 1,000 current or retired police officers due to their alleged links to terrorist organizations based on the temporary 35th article of government decree number 375, which was issued during the state of emergency.

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