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Far-right leader visiting quake zone with Erdoğan reprimands survivors for protest

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Far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has been accompanying the chief executive to areas recently devastated by two major earthquakes, on Tuesday scolded survivors of the disaster for protesting and shouting demands during the visit, local media reported.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Gaziantep on Feb. 6 while people were sleeping, killing more than 45,000 in the 11 southeastern provinces hardest hit by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. The quake was followed by thousands of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that shook the region later the same day.

Bahçeli and Erdoğan on Tuesday visited the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaraş, near the epicenter of the second major quake in Turkey’s southeast, and inspected containers set up by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) to house people left homeless by the earthquakes.

A video circulating on Twitter shows Bahçeli scolding a group of earthquake survivors demanding that Elbistan break off from Kahramanmaraş and become a province in its own right so that relief and reconstruction can be conducted more quickly and efficiently.

Turkey’s Düzce region, once a district of Bolu province, broke off and became a province following a devastating earthquake in November 1999. The move allowed Düzce to progress more quickly since the earthquake aid provided by the authorities is distributed from provincial centers.

In the video, a group of protesters is heard shouting, “Make Elbistan a province,” and Bahçeli, in return, tells them that they have no right to “sabotage the visit of our esteemed president and other officials with slogans.”

“There will be silence [here]. Just disperse already!” the MHP leader adds.

According to Turkish media reports, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Mahir Ünal tried to calm the protestors after Bahçeli left the scene but they continued to shout their demands.

Erdoğan and his AKP government have come under fire following the twin earthquakes due to what many said was poor handling of the disaster, belated search and rescue efforts and failure to provide basic necessities to the survivors in addition to their failure to prepare the country for quakes since it sits on major fault lines and is frequently struck by deadly earthquakes.

Bahçeli, who was outraged by calls from Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş fans over the weekend that the government resign due to its failure to adequately prepare the country for earthquakes, on Tuesday associated them with an “internal and external conspiracy designed to make Turkey look weak.”

Bahçeli also canceled his Beşiktaş membership and called on club management to prevent such displays or to play matches in empty stadiums.

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