Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emboldened by local election wins, has criticised Twitter, the nation’s top court, central bank and hinted he could run for the presidency.
Asked whether he would seek to become head of state in August, the first time voters will directly elect the president, Erdogan said he and incumbent Abdullah Gul “will reach a decision after negotiating this between us”.
After Erdogan’s 11 years in power, months of crisis and bitterly contested mayoral elections last Sunday, Turkey has been left even more polarised between a secular and mostly urban middle-class and Erdogan’s loyal base in the conservative Muslim working class.
Erdogan, head of a hugely popular Islamic-rooted party, spoke bluntly on Friday on a flashpoint issue in the crisis: an official block on Twitter that was overturned this week as breaching free speech by the highest court.
“I don’t respect this ruling,” said a defiant Erdogan, a day after Twitter went live again in Turkey.
“All our national, moral values have been put aside,” he said about the social media service, which has hosted a torrent of recordings implicating Erdogan’s inner circle in sleaze and corruption.
“Insults to a country’s prime minister and ministers are all around.”
Echoing the Turkish leader, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said “unfortunately the Constitutional Court exceeded its limits”.
But Washington hailed the court’s decision as supporting freedom of expression.
“We also note that the Turkish government implemented the ruling yesterday to unblock Twitter,” said deputy US State Department Marie Harf.
“Obviously we continue to urge the government to open all social media space in Turkey.”
The US also praised a ruling by a lower court in Ankara on Friday against another, ongoing ban, on the video-sharing site YouTube, imposed in March after it was used to leak a recording of apparent top-level military talks on Syria.
Erdogan denied the internet bans amounted to censorship, characterising the social media sites as simply commercial companies that sell a product.
“It is everyone’s free will whether or not to buy their product,” he said.
“This has nothing to do with freedoms.”