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Turkey PM seeks to rouse voters in giant Istanbul rally

18 may 2015, 10:23
0

 Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday hosted the biggest rally yet of Turkey's legislative election campaign, as the ruling party battles three weeks ahead of the polls to maintain its total dominance of politics, AFP reports.

Tens of thousands of people filled the gigantic outdoor area in the Maltepe district of Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara to hear Davutoglu, who said only the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be trusted with Turkey's future in the June 7 polls.

"Dear Istanbul are you with us? Are you behind us?" shouted Davutoglu, his voice hoarse from campaigning in over 40 cities.

"On June 7, is there going to be a new Turkey?" he said, as the crowds roared their approval.

"They (the opposition) talk. The AKP acts," he said, repeating his party's main election slogan.

Davutoglu, the former foreign minister, became premier and AKP leader when Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to the presidency in August last year after over a decade as prime minister.

He is under huge pressure to show his political mettle in the polls, the first election battle where the Islamic-rooted AKP has not been led by Erdogan since it first came to power in 2002.

Criticised by some for lacking Erdogan's charisma, Davutoglu arrived in rock star-style fashion, circling the crowds in his helicopter before landing nearby.

"We are watching history, we are writing history," Davutoglu said in live comments from the helicopter broadcast to the crowd before landing.

Speaking in front of a giant picture of himself under the slogan "Stronger Together", Davutoglu spoke from a long catwalk platform that jutted out from the stage, throwing out flowers.

At the end, loudspeakers blared the election song written for Davutoglu, "Ahmet Hoca" ("Ahmet the Teacher"), in reference to his academic background.

Erdogan had used precisely the same venue for his final major rally before his triumphant August 2014 presidential election.

    'Dustbin of history' 

 Opinion polls can vary widely in Turkey, with the latest surveys putting the AKP on anything from 38-47 percent of the vote.

Any result to the lower end of that scale would be a massive blow for Davutoglu's leadership, after the party scored almost 50 percent of the vote in the 2011 polls and 46.5 in 2007 under Erdogan.

Davutoglu whipped up the crowds by angrily slamming the death sentence handed by Egypt to ousted president Mohamed Morsi -- who Turkey had strongly supported.

"The modern pharaohs of Egypt will be consigned to the dustbin of history," he said, lashing out at Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the overthrow of Morsi.

He compared Morsi to former Turkish premier Adnan Menderes, who was executed in 1961 after a military coup and remains an idol for many in the AKP, saying today no-one remembers those who sent him to the gallows.

Davutoglu said Turkey's enemies wanted to set a "trap" in the polls after over a decade of new prosperity led by the AKP.

"Are you going to allow this? When the giant has now stood tall?!" he asked.

Erdogan also spoke earlier to a rally of thousands in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, saying that the elections marked a "crossroads" for Turkey.

The supposedly apolitical Turkish head of state in theory is barred from campaigning and the opposition has accused Erdogan of blatantly violating the constitution.

But Erdogan again denied this was the case, saying he was merely "on the side of the people".

Erdogan wants the AKP to win a two-thirds majority in seats to change the constitution to a presidential system and enshrine his status as the Turkish number one, a goal analysts say could prove hard to achieve.

Another option is to win a three-fifths majority which would be sufficient to call a referendum on the issue.

A major factor will be whether the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) wins enough votes to break the steep 10 percent threshold needed to take seats in parliament.

Polls predict that the secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) will come second, followed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the HDP in fourth.


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