Rivals to ruling AK party claim Recep Tayyip Erdogan exploiting his prime ministerial position in presidential race
ANKARA - Turkey's main opposition party has claimed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not competing fairly in the country's upcoming presidential elections.
A week after Erdogan declared his candidacy for the 10 August polls, Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu alleged at a party group meeting on Tuesday that the fact Erdogan was head of the ruling AK party gave him an unfair advantage in the polls.
Kilicdaroglu said: "You (Erdogan) have not quit your post. If you trust yourself, race on equal terms with (opposition candidate Ekmeleddin) Ihsanoglu."
Arguing the presidential office did not belong to any political party leader, Kilicdaroglu said: "The president should be impartial, embrace the whole nation and treat all political parties equally.
"A statesman is generally thinking of national interests, not selfish ones. But you (Erdogan) are not like that."
The Republican People’s Party and the Nationalist Movement Party have chosen Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the 71-year-old former head of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, as their candidate for the elections - the first in Turkey where the president will be chosen by popular vote.
Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli has previously criticized Erdogan, saying: "Remaining in office on one hand and being a presidential candidate on the other is a preparation for suppressing the separation of powers."
Meanwhile, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairman, Figen Yuksekdag said the prime minister was exploiting the advantages of being in government.
"All presidential nominees benefit from the state treasury except us," he said.
The Peoples' Democracy Party has nominated its co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtas, 41, for the presidential race.
After being elected to the Turkish parliament in 2007 elections, Demirtas was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2010 for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Demirtas has said that the Peoples' Democracy Party will rely on people power in its campaign, rather than on economic support from the state.
The presidential post has previously been elected by assembly lawmakers.
The public campaign for the position will continue up until 9 August.
Should none of the candidates take more than 50 per cent of the votes, a second round will take place on 24 August.
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