ANKARA: A bitter row erupted on Friday between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival in the presidential election after the premier accused his opponent of not recognising the Turkish national anthem. Erdogan mercilessly mocked Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu for not knowing the Istiklal Marsi (Independence March) anthem, a huge insult in a country which sets great store by patriotism. Ihsanoglu, a softly-spoken, bespectacled intellectual, had visited a cemetery in Istanbul while campaigning and stopped by the tomb of poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy, the author of the words to the anthem. Speaking at a mass rally in Kahramanmaras, Erdogan broke off from his speech to air a video of Ihsanoglu’s faux pas on a big screen. Erdogan accused Ihsanoglu of being “incapable of making a distinction between the national anthem and a Gallipoli poem.” He slammed Ihsanoglu as an “imported candidate... unable to recognise the national anthem.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.