Supporters of ruling AK Party wave party flags during an election rally in Kirikkale, central Turkey yesterday. Turkey will hold municipal elections on March 30.
KIRIKKALE, Turkey: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday berated an Islamic cleric he accuses of plotting to wreck his government, as more voice recordings apparently intended to embarrass the Turkish leader were aired on the Internet.
Erdogan is locked in a power struggle with US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally he says is behind a stream of “fabricated” voice recordings purportedly revealing corruption in the prime minister’s inner circle.
Four more recordings have appeared on YouTube in the last two days, part of what Erdogan sees as a campaign to undermine his ruling centre-right AK Party before local elections on March 30 and a presidential poll due later this year.
Rounding on the Gulen movement in an election campaign rally in the central Turkish city of Kirikkale, Erdogan, the country’s most popular politician, was in characteristically defiant mood.
“We will make them (Gulen’s movement) regret these coup undertakings... We will reveal their blackmail and threats one by one ... Those who have betrayed this country will pay the price,” Erdogan told a crowd of about 5,000 supporters.
In one of the recordings leaked yesterday, Erdogan purportedly tells a well-known shipping magnate to appeal the result of a multi-billion-dollar tender to build six frigates after Koc Holding, Turkey’s biggest company, won a contract to build four of the warships in January 2013.
The contract was eventually awarded to the naval shipyards. A second contract to build a helicopter landing dock went to a Turkish-Spanish joint venture. The national warship project had initially favoured wholly domestic, private-sector producers.
Erdogan has publicly signalled a dislike for Koc Holding, suggesting that the company, whose output accounts for about 10 percent of the economy, has meddled in politics. Koc and its subsidiaries have faced a series of fines, lawsuits and tax audits in recent years. Koc could not be reached for comment. Erdogan’s office has declined to comment on the latest recordings.
Another voice recording, posted late on Monday, purports to be of Erdogan urging his justice minister to speed up a court case against Aydin Dogan, head of a family-run conglomerate seen as part of a secular elite which has had an often tense relationship with his Islamist-rooted government.