ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused his opponents of trying to stir up chaos ahead of key local elections later this month, a day after clashes in which two people died.
His comments, directed at politicians, businesspeople and the media, came after tens of thousands of people turned out to mourn a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries suffered in anti-government protests last year, sparking violence between police and protesters.
On Thursday, Erdogan said demonstrators had destroyed the offices of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul, and lashed out at what he called “ugly attempts” to manipulate March 30 elections.
“They are trying to get results by provoking and terrorising the streets,” he said.
“They are charlatans, they are not honest. They have nothing to do with democracy,” he added. “They do not believe in the ballot box”.
The March elections will be a key test of popularity for Erdogan, who is grappling with a huge corruption scandal.
“You were supposed to be democrats, you were supposed to be pro-freedoms,” Erdogan said, referring to those who destroyed the party offices.
A 22-year-old man was shot dead and a 30-year-old policeman died of a heart attack on Wednesday when officers confronted demonstrators in the eastern town of Tunceli, according to local media.
Berkin Elvan died in hospital nine months after he was hit by a tear gas cannister during the protests against Erdogan, putting him in a coma.
His death triggered protests across the country reminiscent of last year’s demonstrations, which threw up one of the most serious challenges to Erdogan’s grip on power since 2003.