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Main opposition leader champions retirees’ demands at large Ankara rally

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel has become the voice of retirees and advocated for their demands during a large rally in Ankara attended by thousands from across the country, local media reported over the weekend.

Özel spoke on Sunday at the “Great Retirees Rally,” expressing his determination to secure the rights of Turkey’s nearly 16 million retirees.

Thousands of retirees from across the country, including members of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Union’s (DİSK) Emekli-Sen, the All Retirees Union, the Union of All Independent Retirees, the Turkish Retired Army Officers Association (TESUD) and many other civil society organizations, attended the rally held in Tandoğan Square.

They held banners and placards reading “Dignified life, fair sharing [of rights],” “For a humane and fair life,” “The chips are down,” “Will we leave our grandchildren a dignified future. How about you?” and “We won’t pay the price of the [economic] crisis.”

The retirees have been vocal in criticizing a pension increase announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this year. The increase, seen by many as insufficient, raised the lowest pension to 10,000 Turkish lira ($311), less than 59 percent of the monthly minimum wage.

Making a comparison between the minimum wage and pensions, Özel said that when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, the lowest pension was one-and-a-half times the minimum wage.

“If they hadn’t changed anything about your situation, the lowest pension would be TL 26,000 ($807) today,” he said, proposing legislation requiring that the lowest pension never be less than the minimum wage.

Özel also emphasized the importance of granting retirees the right to unionize and urged an immediate cessation of closure lawsuits aimed at intimidating these unions.

“A retiree card should be issued for retirees, and discounts ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent should be applied to their electricity and natural gas bills,” the CHP leader added.

Özel further noted the necessity of forgiving all interest on retirees’ loans and credit card debts and dividing the remaining amounts into installments stretched over five years.

The CHP leader called on both the AKP government and the opposition to come together to solve the problems of retirees.

The Turkish president is held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis of his time in power, with the official annual inflation rate peaking at 85 percent in October and climbing back up above 69 percent last month.

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