The release of a recording allegedly revealing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's involvement in the leak of a 2010 sex tape that forced the main opposition's then-leader to resign has raised the stakes in an ongoing political battle triggered by a graft investigation implicating Erdogan's government Hurriyet Daily News reported.
As has been the case with many of the audio recordings released online since the launch of the investigation, Erdogan remained defiant on March 26, saying the latest recording was a result of a "montage."
Yet, on the very same day, former Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal indicated he had more to say on the issue when he said the ball was now in Erdogan's court.
"First of all, there is a situation. I expect the counterpart regarding this issue to make a statement," Baykal told reporters in Afyonkarahisar, urging the prime minister to make an elaborate explanation to counter the accusations raised by the audio recording. "We will wait for the statement. Then, we will make the required [statement]."
As recently as during the current campaigning in the run-up to local elections on March 30, Erdogan accused the CHP's current leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, of involvement in the leak of the sex tape about Baykal.
"The man called Kilicdaroglu and who is devoid of morality says, 'Let him make a statement.' Why would I make a statement? Who removed [the video about Baykal] when it went on social media at the time? I did it; it was me," Erdogan said during an election rally in the northwestern province of Düzce.
The audio recording released late on March 25 allegedly shows Erdogan speaking about the video regarding Baykal even before it was uploaded onto YouTube and giving orders for the release of the video.
Kilicdaroglu, for his part, likened the situation to the Watergate scandal which occurred during the presidency of Richard Nixon in the United States.
"This is another version of the Watergate scandal which happened in America. He [Erdogan] must urgently make a statement," Kilicdaroglu told reporters in Manisa.
Back in May 2010, Baykal resigned following the release of the sex scandal videotape circulating on the Internet. The tape, released on YouTube, was said to have shown Baykal allegedly having an affair with a female politician.
At the time, the veteran politician described the incident as a "political act" saying there was a conspiracy against him.
"This is not a sex tape, this is a conspiracy ... Those who were behind this conspiracy did it for political aims," Baykal said, underlining that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) must have had knowledge of the videotape.
"If this has a price, and that price is the resignation from CHP leadership, I am ready to pay it. My resignation does not mean running away, or giving in. On the contrary, it means that I'm fighting it," a noncompliant Baykal vowed at the time.