Turkish interior minister likens May 14 elections to 2016 attempted coup

Turkey's Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in a speech on Friday likened the upcoming general election on May 14 to a coup attempt, Turkish media reported.

In a speech made at a science and culture association in Istanbul, Soylu said the elections were similar to an abortive putsch that took place on July 15, 2016 and described it as “another coup attempt.”  

“July 15 was an attempted coup, and May 14 is a political coup attempt. It’s very clear that the West is part of this coup. They [the West and its allies in Turkey] want to leave Turkey powerless and take over the country,” he said. 

Soylu called on everyone to cast their votes in the upcoming elections in favor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and mobilize people around them to do the same. He reiterated his words in a tweet, saying the elections were a coup attempt against the government.

Soylu’s speech sparked outrage among journalists and opposition members, who said he was trying to incite fear among the public.

The Turkish government has tightened its grip on its critics ahead of the critical elections. On Tuesday 126 pro-Kurdish activists, journalists and lawyers were detained in raids – — described by sources as a “counterterrorism” operation — in 21 provinces including the majority-Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The detainees include Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) politicians, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. 

The HDP said last month it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has increased fines on broadcasters for their critical reporting ahead of the elections, which has attracted criticism from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and many other rights organizations. 

AKP supporters have also posted videos on social media threatening chaos if their party loses the elections, targeting HDP voters in particular. 

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