Turkey’s main opposition leader launched a European court appeal on Tuesday over an April vote that granted President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers, stepping up his challenge to the government as he led a 425 km (265 mile) protest march. Erdogan accuses the protesters, marching from Ankara to Istanbul, of “acting together with terrorist groups”, referring to Kurdish militants and followers of a U.S.-based cleric who Ankara says was behind last year’s coup. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), hit back on Tuesday, defending his “justice march” and accusing the government of creating a one-party state in the wake of the failed putsch on July 15.
On the 20th day of his march, triggered by the jailing of a CHP deputy on spying charges, Kilicdaroglu signed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the election board’s decision to accept unstamped ballots in the April 16 referendum.
“Turkey has rapidly turned into a (one-)party state. Pretty much all state institutions have become branches of a political party,” he told reporters. “This is causing profound harm to our democratic, parliamentary system.”
Kilicdaroglu, 68, wearing a white shirt and a baseball cap with the word ‘justice’ printed on it, then set out on the latest leg of the march from the city of Izmit, around 100 km (60 miles) along the coast to the east of central Istanbul.