Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked controversy on Friday, using Twitter to call for support in Sunday’s elections and comparing the situation to an attempted coup in July 2016, a move critics interpreted as a veiled threat to a peaceful transition of power, Turkish Minute reported.
The 2016 abortive putsch was a failed bid by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces to overthrow the government that resulted in violent and deadly clashes. Critics say Erdoğan used the coup as a pretext to crack down on his opponents and jail tens of thousands amid a massive purge of state institutions, raising questions of a false flag operation aimed at strengthening the president’s grip on power.
Erdoğan’s tweet, in an attempt to rally his supporters, read, “No matter what attacks we face, we will not cast a shadow on the will of the nation and our democracy. When necessary, we will defend our independence and future at the cost of our lives, as we did on the night of July 15th.”
Erdoğan’s remarks referencing the night of July 15, 2016, when the coup attempt led to violent confrontations in the streets between his supporters and soldiers and resulted in the death of 251 people, are seen as a veiled threat to mobilize his supporters in the event of an unfavorable election outcome.
The president’s message comes amid a tense political climate in Turkey. Opinion polls indicate that Erdoğan, who has been in power for 20 years, is trailing main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Some even suggest Erdoğan could lose the presidency in the first round of voting.
Prominent journalist Can Dündar responded to Erdoğan’s tweet, stating, “This was the expected tweet. The question that’s been asked for months: ‘What will he do if he loses?’ He realized that he could lose and sent the message of a ‘coup in the streets.’ Turkey has one last test left before it: The test to prove that those who are defeated at the ballot box cannot win in the streets…”
Further, journalist Barış Terkoğlu during a Halk TV broadcast reported a conversation between retired and active duty soldiers indicating that the military would remain committed to the constitution and the national will irrespective of political pressure. The army’s stance could be critical if political tensions escalate following the election.
The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, set to take place on Sunday, have been marked by escalating rhetoric and tension. This is largely due to the close race and potential for a significant shift in Turkey’s political landscape.