ANKARA, Turkey— Making his first televised appearance since the ruling party he founded lost its parliamentary majority, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked all political parties to put aside their “egos” Thursday and rapidly form Turkey’s next government.
Ignoring a constitution requirement to remain neutral, Erdogan had campaigned for the ruling party in the hopes that it would win a supermajority so it could rewrite the country’s constitution to create a presidential system that would give him control of government.
The surprisingly strong loss was a slap to Erdogan’s ambitions. The ruling party, which had governed alone, is now forced to seek a coalition partnership with three smaller parties he had fiercely attacked during the campaign.
Those parties have sounded reluctant to join forces with the ruling party, although reports say behind-the-scenes meetings are underway.
Erdogan, Turkey’s dominant political figure for the past decade, had hardly been seen in public since Sunday’s electoral upset. A humorous Internet clock showed he had been off the airwaves for at least 3 days and 21 hours.
On Thursday, Erdogan delivered a speech at a graduation ceremony for foreign students in which he did not mention of electoral setback but called on parties to put aside differences — and also took a swipe at the West.
“Those who leave Turkey without a government, those who fall victim of their egos will not be able to answer history or the people,” Erdogan said. “Everyone should leave their egos behind.”
Erdogan also accused the West of ignoring the plight of thousands of refugees he said were being left to “drown at sea.” He claimed the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic state militants in Syria were “bombing” Arabs and Turkmens near Turkey’s border and would replace the population there with Kurdish fighters, who Turkey considers terrorists.
He slammed Western media organizations for their “nasty and aggressive” attacks on him, but said their “intolerance” was proof that he was “on the right path.”