ISTANBUL : Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Monday a donation from his main rival in August’s presidential election in a highly unusual gesture for the sometimes bruising world of Turkish politics.
The main opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu donated 1,000 lira ($470) to Erdogan’s campaign fund and transferred a similar sum to the third candidate, the pro-Kurdish HDP’s candidate Selahattin Demirtas.
Ihsanoglu - a softly-spoken academic - clearly wants to inject a sense of gentlemanly fair play into what could prove a rough campaign for the August 10 vote. But Erdogan, who has ridiculed his opponent as a political novice over the last weeks, clearly was having none of it. The sum was immediately turned down at the request of the prime minister, Erdogan’s lawyer Ali Ozkaya was quoted as saying by the Turkish media.
“It was returned with thanks,” he was quoted as saying.
Demirtas meanwhile could not resist a dig at Erdogan over allegations he has fabulous amounts of undisclosed wealth, something the premier has always angrily denied.
“Professor, thank you for the trouble,” Demirtas wrote on Twitter, addressing Ihsanoglu. “But the other candidate has a lot (of money), feel free to donate it all to me.”
Ihsanoglu, 70, replied like a benevolent elderly uncle to his younger opponent Demirtas, who is just 41. “We are working to plant the seeds of love, peace and solidarity in this country,” Ihsanoglu proclaimed on Twitter. “Love is our greatest richness, my dear brother,” he added.
Ihsanoglu, a former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) faces an uphill struggle against Erdogan, with polls suggesting that the premier could win an outright victory in the first round.