A member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in central Turkey has confessed that campaign posters on the city’s billboards that portray the opposition’s Nation Alliance in a negative light came from AKP headquarters, the KRT TV news website reported on Tuesday.
A week before Turkey’s presidential runoff slated for May 28, employees of the AKP-run Nevşehir Municipality hung campaign posters on the billboards in the city that discredited the Nation Alliance, whose presidential candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is the rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the race.
The posters contained the statements “For us, the [Kurdish People’s Protection Units] YPG is not a terrorist organization” and “Selahattin Demirtaş will be released.”
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community and has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984.
Demirtaş, former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges.
Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, in addition to their ultranationalist election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse the HDP of links to the PKK. In late April, Erdoğan criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for vowing to release Demirtaş if elected president in the May election.
According to KRT TV, Yekta Arda Gürbüz, provincial chair of the CHP’s Nevşehir youth branch, was briefly detained for spray-painting the word “lie” on the posters.
Tevfik Ekici, the Nevşehir provincial vice chair of the AKP, who filed the criminal complaint leading to the brief detention of Gürbüz, reportedly confessed that the posters came from party headquarters.
“The posters you’re asking me about … were hung throughout our city on the morning of May 20, 2023. The posters arrived already printed from the … AKP headquarters. We delivered them to the advertising company and had them hung on the morning of May 20, 2023,” Ekici said in his statement to the police.
Nevşehir CHP provincial vice chair Tayfun Ceyhan said the complainants, who were called to police headquarters upon Gürbüz’s release, withdrew their complaints.
Ceyhan added that the posters had been removed but that they would file a criminal complaint following the disclosure of Ekici’s statement at the police station.
“It has been revealed that members within the AKP were the ones who had these posters hung. I had a conversation with AKP Provincial Chairman Ali Kemikkıran. I said these actions were highly inappropriate and that they can’t insult our party leader like this,” Ceyhan said.
Kılıçdaroğlu has been criticizing the AKP government’s divisive language and accusing it of attempting to manipulate the elections scheduled for May 14.
In a rally in Kayseri on April 29 Kılıçdaroğlu said, “I know the dirty tricks they’ll try in the last 10 days.”
Turkey will hold a presidential runoff on May 28 since initial results showed Erdoğan failing to secure a first-round win against his secular rival, Kılıçdaroğlu.
According to the unofficial results of the May 14 presidential election, Erdoğan received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu garnered 44.8 percent.