ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered a senior regional party official to resign after pictures apparently showed him drinking alcohol, media reported Friday.
Mustafa Celebi, the head of the AKP in a district of the southwestern Mugla province, can be seen in photos posted on social media drinking alcohol with two colleagues, according to the website of the Hurriyet daily.
Drinking alcohol is legal in Turkey and beers, wines and spirits are easily available especially in Istanbul, Ankara and the coastal resorts.
However, the Islamic-rooted AKP takes a dim view of drinking.
Erdogan, who last week declared his candidacy for the presidential election on August 10, neither drinks nor smokes. All party officials are expected to do the same, as practicing Muslims.
Hurriyet said the AKP sent an official from the neighboring Izmir province, to investigate the claims, and the recommendation was made to AKP deputy leader Suleyman Soylu. Soylu agreed that Celebi should resign and he is expected to quit early next week, it added.
The majority of Turks do not drink but a significant minority do and vehemently protect their right to drink alcohol.
Recent measures by the ruling party to increase taxes on alcohol and ban advertising for drinks caused uproar among secularists who fear an Islamic takeover of the country.