ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comparison of former statesman and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Ismet Inonu, who succeeded Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as president of Turkey, to Adolf Hitler has caused a furor in Ankara.
Erdogan said on Sunday, while commenting on an earlier remark from current CHP Chairman Deniz Baykal likening him to Hitler. “If they really have to find a political figure like Hitler, they should look at the pictures of their own party leaders. They will see a party chairman who wanted to be like the Fuhrer and announced he was the national chief smiling at them from under his Hitler-like moustache,” he said, referring to Ismet Inonu.
Erdogan’s remarks left their mark on yesterday’s session in Parliament, which on Saturday started its second round of voting on the government-backed constitutional amendment package after giving the reforms an initial approval in an eight-day voting marathon.
CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Kemal Anadol criticized Erdogan’s remarks, accusing him of treason for his words. Tunceli independent deputy Kamer Genc also said Erdogan should be reprimanded for his rash remarks. Responding to the criticism of Erdogan’s statement, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) parliamentary group deputy chairman Mustafa Elitas said that although Inonu was undoubtedly a hero during the Turkish War of Independence, nobody can oppose criticisms of him as a political party leader. “Inonu was a hero during the War of Independence but he was a political figure after 1950. So, he can be criticized,” he said.
After the death of Ataturk, Inonu was elected as the second president of the Republic of Turkey and enjoyed the official title of “national chief.” His period was an authoritarian period for many. Under İnönü’s rule, the state pursued policies such as a welfare tax imposed on minorities at extremely high rates. Minorities were offered the choice of paying or going to labor camps. The single-party period under İnönü is also referred as a period of dictatorship, since all provincial heads and governors were also the provincial and district heads of the CHP.
CHP spokesperson Mustafa Ozyurek was also critical of Erdogan’s remarks, saying Erdogan should pay the cost of this “disrespectful likening.” He recalled that İnönü was a commander during the War of Independence and negotiated and signed the Treaty of Lausanne, the agreement founding the Turkish Republic.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Oktay Vural said his party finds Erdogan’s likening a prominent figure in Turkish history to a leader who committed crimes against humanity inappropriate. Underlining that Inonu has many policies to be criticized, Vural said, however, it would be defamatory to liken him to Hitler.
“There is not a crime against humanity in our history. We do not have a leader who committed such a crime, either. But there were some who made mistakes,” he said.