ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ridiculed his main election opponent on Sunday, referring to him as “mon cher”—a derogatory term used in Turkey to describe elitists.
“They ask a candidate whether he will address the issue of roads (construction) if elected. He replies he has nothing to do with roads… They are mon cher but we are servants,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters in a rally in the eastern province of Erzurum.
In Turkish, the French phrase “mon cher” (“my dear” in English) is a term of ridicule which Erdoğan has used in the past to describe retired Turkish diplomats.
On Sunday, he used it to refer to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu—the softly spoken, bespectacled intellectual put forward as a joint candidate by the main opposition parties to defeat Erdogan in the country’s first direct presidential election in August.
Ihsanoglu is a former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the global grouping of Muslim nations, and a scholar who makes no secret of his devotion to Islam.
His nomination by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party, who have often struggled to provide a united front against Erdoğan, has fuelled concerns among secular voters.
Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics for over a decade, is seen a clear favorite in the August 10 polls.
But a series of crises over the past year ranging from mass street protests to a vast corruption scandal has badly bruised his stature both home and abroad.
Erdoğan has also faced criticism for his plans to greatly increase the powers of the president, which has until now been a ceremonial post.
Nonetheless, Erdoğan appeared upbeat on Sunday, calling the upcoming elections a “milestone on the path to a new Turkey.”