Erdogan, waving Quran, implicitly asks crowds to vote for AK Party

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, waving a copy of the Quran while addressing the crowd at a rally in Siirt province on Monday, has been criticized for abusing Islam for political purposes and seeking support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

After approving of the crowd having booed main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroilu at the same rally, Erdogan encouraged them to express that sentiment at the ballot box in the upcoming parliamentary election. He then declared his support for former minister Egemen Baiii, who has been accused of mocking the Quran. Erdogan called Baiii his quotbrother.quot In an audio recording of a phone conversation that was leaked online in 2014, Baiii can allegedly be heard making jokes about the Quran, twisting the name of the second chapter of the Quran, “Surah Baqara,” calling it “makara,” which is part of a Turkish expression meaning “to pull a prank on someone,” or “to joke around,” among other comments that were seen as very disrespectful.

Similarly, Erdogan, who also held a copy of Quran as he addressed the crowd in the largely Kurdish-populated city of Diyarbakir on Saturday, is being accused of misusing religion for political gain and of favoring the AK Party, violating the impartiality that his presidential title requires according to the Constitution.

Having launched what would seem to be a large political campaign to support the ruling AK Party in the June 7 parliamentary election across the country, Erdogan contends that he has the right to use state resources to conduct such rallies.

In Diyarbakir on Saturday, Erdogan said: “Are you asking with whose money I am holding rallies? I am holding [them] with state money. It is my legal right. I am standing here as the president of this country. I am here after getting 52 percent of the vote,quot referring to recent criticism from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtai about his campaigning.

In an election campaign speech to Turkish voters in Paris, Demirtai said Erdogan is committing a crime by violating the Constitution, which dictates that the president be politically impartial. quotThe president speaks in Batman and Diyarbakir today,quot Demirtai said of Erdogan’s visits to the southeastern provinces on Saturday. quotHe goes there to ask for votes for a certain party, the AKP [AK Party]. And he does not do it secretly either. He travels on a state plane, bought by taxes paid by us, by [in part] those who vote for the HDP. We even pay for the stage he delivers his speeches on. And what he does he do? He uses all the state assets he has for pro-AKP election propaganda,quot Demirtai said on Saturday.

The opposition has been voicing criticism of Erdogan’s rallies held ahead of the June elections, saying that he is openly violating Article 103 of the Constitution, which includes the president’s oath and clearly states that the holder of the post must assure the public that he will remain impartial while performing his duties.

The mayors of Batman and Diyarbakir, from the HDP’s sister party the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), refused to welcome Erdogan or attend his events in the provinces on Saturday, citing concerns that Erdogan is using the visits to seek electoral support for the AK Party.

Erdogan, a founding member and former leader of the AK Party, was elected president on Aug. 10, 2014. He has been calling on people during recent rallies held across Turkey to vote for the ruling party, without explicitly stating its name, in the upcoming parliamentary elections and for them to give the government the power to make a new constitution. Erdogan wants the AK Party to have a parliamentary majority sufficient to amend the Constitution in order to clear the way to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential one.

Minister asks imam to bring mosque community to election rally

In a similar instance of alleged abuse of religion, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has asked an imam of a mosque in Denizli province to bring those who pray at his mosque to Davutoilu’s planned address to the public.

At a breakfast event held by a non-governmental organization in the city on Sunday, Zeybekci addressed the guests and asked students from Merkezefendi Anatolian imam-Hatip School who were in attendance as well as members of the non-governmental organizations to attend Davutoilu’s rally.

Zeybekci also asked an imam of Asrimezarlikici Mosque, Huseyin Ekici, to gather the mosque community to attend Davutoilu’s election rally in the city, saying: quotAs you know, these rallies are extremely important to us. I hope the hodja [in reference to the imam] will support the rally by calling the community to attend.quot

In response to the minister’s call, imam Ekici said: quotod willing.” Additionally, Erdogan’s son, Bilal Erdogan, gathered the administrators from an imam-hatip high school in izmir and the izmir governor over the weekend to seek support for the AK Party, another instance of mixing religion with politics. The event was revealed after Adnan Yilmaz, who defines himself as quotan AK Party soldier of izmirquot posted a photograph of the event to his Twitter account. Bilal also recently visited Diyarbakir province and gathered a group of administrators from various imam-hatip high schools there, emphasizing that there is a need for more of these schools.

Pro-gov’t Yeni Akit publishes article claiming Erdogan is caliph

While the discussion over Erdogan and the government abusing Islam for their political gained momentum, the pro-government daily, Yeni Akit, published an article first published by a pro-government news portal, Haber Seyret, claiming that Erdogan is a caliph and, along with Davutoilu, waiting for the appearance of Mahdi, the Messiah.

The article asserted that Mahdi will take an active role in the war in Syria and after the defeat of the armies of the Western powers in that country, he will head for Jerusalem to conquer the city with the help of the caliph. Moreover, the article claimed that the presidential palace known as quotAk Sarayquot was constructed to govern the provinces that will be occupied by Mahdi’s army. The article also stated that Erdogan and Davutoilu want to be martyred fighting against enemies.

Meanwhile, Diyarbakir Bar Association President Tahir Elci also said on Monday that Erdogan is violating the Constitution by abusing religious values by holding a copy of Quran while addressing the crowd in several provinces and called on the judiciary to take action against Erdogan.

quotOur laws prescribe that the president cannot be tried except for the offense of treason, but Erdogan is clearly violating the Constitution,quot Elci noted.

Holding a press conference with a group of lawyers in Diyarbakir, Elci stressed that Erdogan has worked to eliminate the state of law and the Constitution, which should be considered a treasonable offense and he called on the judiciary to take action against the violation of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Selim Temurci, chairman of the AK Party Istanbul branch, criticized opponents of the AK Party, defining them as being quotirreligiousquot for not supporting the ruling party.

Attending an event to mark Handicapped Week on Sunday, Temurci alleged that those who struggle against the AK Party are the ones who are truly handicapped.