Cyprus Mail

Arikli ‘threatened’ YDP youth leader

Arikli said he will make an “official merger proposal” to Milletin Partisi leader Bertan Zaroglu.

A leading figure in north coalition party the YDP has claimed she was “threatened” by party leader Erhan Arikli after endorsing his opponent Talip Atalay for the upcoming party leadership election.

Gulsen Ilkbahar, the party’s Nicosia youth branch chairwoman, said “since exercising my democratic right to endorse Talip Atalay … I have been in receipt of various messages putting pressure on and threatening me from Erhan Arikli and his family.”

She said Arikli had said he had paid for her studies at the Near East University despite this not being true, and “despite the fact I have been fighting for this party with all my heart and soul since I took this office.”

She added her displeasure that Arikli was “treating someone the age of his grandchild in this way” and said, “these statements are very hurtful.”

Additionally, she referred to reported comments by Arikli that he had “given her the job”, saying “you did not give me the job, it belongs to the party. I got this job as someone who works for the party.”

“We did not sleep in our homes, we came to this point by working on the streets until midnight” during election campaigns, she said.

“You accused us of betrayal and ungratefulness, but we never told you ‘you’re sitting in that ministerial chair thanks to us!’

Ilkbahar’s comments represent unwanted damage for Arikli just three days out from a leadership election which could spell the end of his career at the top of Turkish Cypriot politics.

Last week he had jumped at an offer put forth by district branch leaders for the party to be run jointly by himself and Atalay under a rotating leadership system, before the offer was withdrawn as it was against internal party rules.

The campaign has been characterised by a fierce war of words between the two candidates, with Atalay disclosing that he had considered moving against Arikli earlier, before the north’s municipal elections in December 2022, but that he had been told by Arikli that “Turkey wants us to show a united front.”

“He kept us aligned with him by saying this, but later we realised that it was not Turkey’s request at all, but rather a request from people within our party to Turkey,” he said, adding that this was a “completely massive deception”.

Arikli had responded with characteristic bombast, referring to Atalay’s theologian roots and previous career as head of the north’s religious affairs directorate, asking “is it appropriate for a man of God to slander me like this?

Should Arikli lose the election, it would likely bring the curtain down on a frontline political career of a man who has never been shy of an outlandish remark.

Most recently, he garnered controversy in September with comments made on social media website Facebook, wherein he accused other users of being “mentally ill”.

“When I read some of these comments, I can’t help but ask ‘how did we raise so many mentally ill people in such a short time?’” he asked, sparking a fierce backlash.

He doubled down on the comments the following day, saying that opposition party the CTP leader Tufan Erhurman’s “contribution to the upbringing of those mentally ill ones is great.”

He had previously been labelled as sexist for comments on Facebook, having responded to a commenter suggesting ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel be replaced by someone younger that “90 – 60 – 90 is my preference”.

He has also been known to create flashpoints in real life, including at a polling station during the north’s by-election in June, where he called a ballot box officer a “bastard” after the officer told his brother not to shake hands with him.

Defending his firebrand style last year, he said “look, brother, we are Muslims, not Christians. In Christianity, the principle of ‘thou shalt turn the other cheek to anyone who slaps you’ is recommended. However, in Islam, there is ‘tit for tat’. Whatever someone did to you, you have the right to do the same to the person who did it.”

The YDP leadership election is set to take place on Saturday.

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