A call by the Turkish opposition to hold a televised debate ahead of next month’s snap elections was rejected on Monday by President Recep Erdogan.
“Especially, I do not want to get into debates on television, because we do not want anyone scoring points on our backs,’’ Mr Erdogan said in Ankara.
The opposition in Turkey has long complained that its rallies, speeches and news conferences are given only limited coverage by mainstream rolling news channels and the state-broadcaster.
All speeches by Mr Erdogan, even multiple rallies on the same day, are broadcast in full.
“Let us debate on television and let us relate our dreams about Turkey,” said Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP).
He said this would bring Turkey in line with other developed nations with similar traditions.
Mr Ince, speaking in Ankara, said he has “absolutely no hope’’ that media or the business world will fairly relay information.
His rallies at the weekend, attended by thousands, were not given live coverage by major channels.
The centre-left CHP candidate said on Saturday that if the situation persists, he would hold rallies outside the state broadcaster’s offices.
In addition to Messrs Erdogan and Ince, at least three other candidates will run, representing a centre-right bloc, an Islamist party and the pro-Kurdish movement.
The pro-Kurdish candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, is in jail, being held in pretrial detention on terrorism charges.
Mr Erdogan said he could consider meeting Mr Ince at the offices of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The opposition candidate said he was keen to meet all contenders.
Turkey, nominally a candidate country to join the EU, ranks 157 out of 180 countries on the Reporters’ Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
European election observers in 2017 referendum on expanding presidential powers, warned the plebiscite had taken place on an un-level playing field, in part citing problems with fair and equal coverage in the media.
The new presidential powers will commence after the upcoming election for both parliament and the presidency, which Mr Erdogan called more than a year ahead of schedule.
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