Erdogan attacks critics at rally supposedly held celebrate conquest of İstanbul

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at domestic and international critics of the government at a gathering in İstanbul on Sunday, which was supposed to be held to celebrate the conquest of İstanbul.

Speaking at a joint rally with prime minister and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Chairman Ahmet Davutoglu in İstanbul’s Yenikapı district on Sunday, Erdogan targeted the government’s and his opponents with harsh words, and once again implicitly campaigned for the AK Party he co-founded.

One of Erdogan’s targets was The New York Times, which recently angered the Turkish president with an editorial which urged the US and other NATO allies to ask the Turkish president to turn away from the “destructive path” he is on.

“There is a rag called the New York Times. Whatever it writes about us today, they wrote the same things about Abdülhamid in 1896,” Erdogan claimed, referring to Abdülhamid II, the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish president further claimed that the NY Times has close ties with the Gülen movement, which is inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, and the “Armenian lobby” in the US. “You won’t achieve your goals until the last flag is lowered, the last azan [call to prayer] is recited in this country,” he said in remarks directed at the US newspaper.

In an editorial titled “Dark clouds Over Turkey,” the publication last weekend pointed to critics’ fear that a new crackdown is starting to ensure that Erdogan’s AK Party wins in upcoming parliamentary elections slated for June 7. Erdogan has not made it a secret that he wants to see the ruling AK Party win the necessary number of seats so that he can expand his presidential powers.

“That kind of brute manipulation of the political process would be a serious mistake, further weakening the country’s battered democracy and tainting whatever victory might emerge,” the editorial warned.

Erdogan had previously slammed the daily and told it to “know its place.”

As the June 7 general election approaches, Erdogan is increasing the number of rallies that he is holding across the country in an apparent effort to increase popular support for the ruling AK Party, which he was leader of until he was elected president last August.

The president this time used the 562nd anniversary of İstanbul’s conquest by Ottoman Turks as an opportunity to campaign for the AK Party. The celebrations were organized by the İstanbul Governor’s Office and the İstanbul Municipality.

Davutoglu also spoke at the celebrations and called for support for his party in the June 7 elections.