Turkish ex-wrestler’s appointment to state bank angers opposition

Turkey’s opposition parties are criticizing the appointment of a former wrestling champion to a state bank’s board, calling on him to reject the position for lack of banking competence.

Hamza Yerlikaya, who won several Olympic medals and world titles in the 1990s for Turkey, was appointed management board member at the country’s fourth-largest lender Vakifbank, according to a stock exchange filing.

The filing gave no explanation for the appointment of the former Greco-Roman wrestler, who now serves as a deputy sports minister and senior advisor to President Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and others also objected to the separate appointment of Ebubekir Sahin, head of the RTUK broadcasting authority, to the executive board of another state lender, Halkbank.

CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak asked the appointees to reject the positions on grounds their experience would not benefit banks’ boardroom decisions.

The Future Party – recently founded by former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was once a close ally of Erdogan – added its disapproval.

“Being the best in one area does not mean one would be the best in another. State banks’ deposits would be in the hands of people who know nothing about the banking system,” Davutoglu said at a news conference on Monday.

As criticism has grown in recent days, neither Yerlikaya nor Sahin have spoken out. The two state banks did not immediately comment, nor did Turkey’s Treasury, which oversees them.

The sports ministry declined to comment. RTUK, the broadcasting body, did not immediately comment.

Another new party, the Deva (Remedy) Party, also asked Yerlikaya and Sahin to resign from the positions.

“The appointment of people to the state bank boards on top of their current positions is against the principles of justice, competence, and being fit for needs of the duty,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.


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