Tens of thousands of Turks rally to mark Ottoman conquest of Istanbul

Tens of thousands of Turks rallied in Istanbul on Sunday to mark the 563rd anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople from the Byzantine Empire, at an event seen as an attempt by President Reccep Tayip Erdogan to rally nationalist pride.

Erdogan is expected to attend the event alongside his right-hand man, Binali Yildirim, the new head of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). He was sworn into office as prime minister earlier that day.

The air force will make a show of strength at the rally, doing a fly-past, and 563 people dressed in janissary costumes will perform. A 3D mapping of the city as it was in 1453 will also be presented.

Security measures were tight ahead of the event, with around 9,000 police and five helicopters surveying the grounds.

Authorities had said they expect 1 million people to attend the celebration.

Erdogan last year used the anniversary, which came just ahead of a crucial election, to attack critics. This year, the government has advertised the mass demonstration heavily, in a large-scale marketing blitz, using images of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and pictures of the president.

The event has been an annual occurrence under Erdogan.

In recent weeks, he has been pushing for constitutional changes to empower his office, worrying the opposition, which fears this will erode checks and balances, amid existing accusations of growing authoritarianism.

Yildirim's cabinet was also sworn in by a comfortable parliamentary majority in Ankara on Sunday, according to CNN Turk. The broadcaster reported that 317 of 550 lawmakers voted in favour of the new government, while Yildirim had the support of 315.

Although Yildirim presented the new cabinet, Erdogan was behind selecting its members. The new premier has repeatedly cited the introduction of a presidential system as his number-one priority while in office.

Last update: Sun, 29/05/2016 - 18:00
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