Main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) presidential candidate in the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections Muharrem İnce has drawn criticism for a tweet that was found offensive by the Jewish community in Turkey. "You are the ones who are rewarded with Profile of Courage Awards and deem yourselves suitable for this war," İnce wrote on his twitter account on Aug. 16, in a series of tweets criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, referring to the award Erdoğan received on behalf of Turkish people during his term as prime minister for Turkey's role in ensuring protection against all forms of malice against the Jewish community in Turkey with the Courage to Care Award in 2005.
The controversial remarks by İnce received harsh criticism on social media platforms.
"Mr. Muharrem, what is the drawback about the "Jewish" award? Is this [attitude] suitable? We expect you to delete this tweet in an environment where the word "Jewish" has been the symbol of hate and othering," İshak İbrahimzadeh, the president of the Jewish Community of Turkey, responded to İnce on Twitter.
Another criticism came from ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Parliamentary Group Chairman Bülent Turan.
"What kind of brazen act is this? The award was given to hero Turkish diplomats for issuing Turkish passports to Jews escaping the genocide and protected them from going to Nazi camps. The CHP was the government. Shame, shame! Delete this tweet," Turan wrote on his Twitter account on Aug. 16.
Yesterday, Hürriyet daily Columnist Ahmet Hakan wrote on his column that İnce had called him and said his intention was to criticize the government's Israel policy and apologized for his comments on his tweet. İnce reportedly said that he did not want the Jewish community to be upset about this.
İnce failed to beat Erdoğan in the June 24 presidential race and received only about 30 percent of the vote against the incumbent president who received 52.6 percent. Currently out of Parliament, İnce leads the dissident group in the CHP, which aims to replace incumbent CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
During his presidential campaign, İnce also made controversial remarks against the U.S. presence in İncirlik Air Base in southern Adana province. He had said the U.S. troops would be sent back by Christmas unless the U.S. extradites U.S.-based Gülenist Terror Group leader Fetullah Gülen.
Approximately 18,000 Jews live in Turkey, most of whom are inhabitants of Istanbul.
Dissident İnce rules out 2019 local elections candidacy
Meawhile, İnce ruled out rumors about his possible candidacy for the upcoming local elections and reiterated that his aim is to become president in 2023, calling on Kılıçdaroğlu to step down if he is not willing to do so.
"Candidacy for any municipality is not on my agenda. I announce my candidacy for the next elections. If Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu is not planning to be the next presidential candidate, there is no reason for him to stay as the chairman of the party. To prepare for the presidential elections, I have to become the chairman of the CHP and prepare the party beforehand." İnce told Turkish media on Saturday, ruling out claims about his candidacy in local elections.
Touching upon the convention debates, İnce said that even if delegate signatures collected for the convention do not reach a quorum, overwhelming numbers should be enough to convene the convention. "Maybe according to the chairman of the CHP, convention debates may have ended; however, the nation should answer whether it is ended or not," he added, referring to Kılıçdaroğlu's remarks made in a press conference held on Aug. 16.
Dissidents have been blaming incumbent party leader Kılıçdaroğlu, who has led the party since 2011, for nine failures in previous elections, hence calling for a change in the administration. The dissidents had started the process of collecting signatures from party delegates for a convention on July 16 following the June 24 elections after the CHP received far fewer votes than the CHP's presidential candidate İnce. Despite constant calls to end discussions after the announcement of the party administration that the dissidents had failed to collect the required 622 delegate signatures and therefore there would be no convention, disputes have not quieted down since then. Recently, dissidents rolled up their sleeves to change bylaws to push their demands on the administration. Following, the meeting of dissidents on Aug. 12, Gaye Usluer, a prominent figure in the dissident faction, announced that if the administration will not convene an extraordinary convention, the dissents would start a petition for a bylaw convention. Dissidents are planning to launch the process for a bylaw convention after Kurban Bayram (also known as Eid al-Adha), giving Kılıçdaroğlu time to convene a convention.
Kılıçdaroğlu recently gave a green light to start a purge of dissidents within the party amid intraparty debates in a bid to hush dissenting voices calling for a bylaw convention. The administration referral of two dissidents to the party disciplinary committee has fueled heated debates once again.