Pelosi cites "Erdogan's Turkey" along with N.Korea, Russia, Turkish officials react

Representative Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the most prominent Democratic Party leaders in the country, cited Turkey as one of the countries with a large deficit in democracy in a group alongside with North Korea, Russia and China while addressing a question on Thursday.

Pelosi, during her weekly press conference, was asked about U.S. President Donald J. Trump's unwillingness to accept readily the result of elections.

Trump has said several times that he may not accept election results if he loses, most recently responding a question on Wednesday, “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

Remarking on these comments, Pelosi said, “I remind him; you are not in North Korea, you are not in Turkey, you are not in Russia ... You are in the United States of America, it is a democracy, so why don’t you just try for a moment to honour your oath of office?"

Pelosi said it was well known that Trump admired Russian President Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and “Erdoğan of Turkey, people who are perpetuating their role in the government.”

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been ruling Turkey since 2002, as prime minister until 2014, and as president since then.

In the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, Turkey instated a state of emergency that took two years to expire due to repeated extensions. In those two years, several changes Erdoğan was in favour of were adopted in a referendum, which was called an unfair and partly- free election by international watchdogs. Erdogan, practically has been ruling Turkey without any checks and balances in the new system.

A number of Turkish government officials reacted harshly against Pelosi, accusing her attacking Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is known for his harsh words against foreign politicians who he perceives as hostile to Erdoğan, tweeted saying Pelosi's rise to become Speaker of the House was “truly worrisome for American democracy, given her blatant ignorance. You will learn to respect the Turkish people’s will,” mentioning U.S. President at the end of the tweet.

Pelosi first rose to the Speakership in 2007, and she stayed on the job until 2011, when Republicans took over the majority at the House. Pelosi then stayed as House Minority Leader until 2019, when Democrats took back the majority of the House. Pelosi re-elected her Speakership then.

Erdoğan's Communication Director Fahrettin Altun became another high profile Turkish official to react to Pelosi. Saying Pelosi’s remarks were “off-the-cuff comments,” Altun called on U.S. politicians “and especially those in leadership positions to stop attacking and start engaging a critical NATO ally like Turkey in a meaningful manner.”

Erdoğan was also elected the first executive president of the Republic of Turkey in 2018, before the state of emergency ended. Since then, Erdoğan has continued his rule, clamping down on critics - including human rights activists, lawyers or average dissident citizen who dares to speak up over social media.

Turkey is on Friday, while reacting Pelosi's criticism of Erdogan's rule, was rounding up scores of Kurdish and human rights activists. 

Gülnur Aybet, a senior Advisor to Erdogan, deployed the harshest rhetoric against the Speaker, describing the remarks as "the sick mentality" and lamented them, "Arrogance and ignorance at its worst."

Turkey expert in Washington, DC, Gönül Tol, quoted Aybet's tweet with one of her own blended with an irony.

Nate Shenkkan, who is the Project Director at Freedom House, Human Rights Watchdog, previously served as Senior Program Officer for Freedom House’s Eurasia programs, covering Turkey and Central Asia, tweeted the irony.