Reading (Between) the Lines: A Review on Turkey’s Election Outcome

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Today is the 6th of November 2015. Five days passed by after the general election took part in Turkey and the election outcome can be read everywhere: With almost 50% of the votes, Justice and Development party (AKP) is the winner; hence able to form a government on it’s own. The Republican People’s party (CHP) showed with around 25% stability compared to the last election and the so-called ‘losers’ are the nationalist party MHP with 12% and the Leftist HDP. Latter sharply surpassed the 10% threshold to win seats in the new Parliament but lost nearly 3% compared to last election in June. So far, so good. Those facts – and only those facts – can be read and seen in every Turkish newspaper, TV channel and on other public media platforms as well as in most of the foreign media. But what’s more interesting, are those voices not written down for the brighter society; those voices considering the former developments in the run-up to the vote as well as on election`s day, setting every mosaic piece to a whole. More precisely – those voices not reproducing just ones’ opinion – the opinion of Turkey’s leading party AKP.

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Reactions after the election’s results were published

According to election assistants and independent or non-compliant media sources, the election’s result should be faced critical. Indeed there are lots of indications that offer lots of space for reasonable doubts. Right after election had started, voices popped up within the Social Network Twitter, saying that especially in southeast of Turkey, foreign election assistant were kept away from polling locations or even have been arrested; HDP assistant workers were attacked by AKP supporters and in southeast, people had to go to election, giving their vote surrounded by tanks and armed military. In addition to that, electricity blackouts were notified in several cities – something that was also the case last election in June. After election’s outcome critical voices didn’t stop. Until nowadays more and more international media and organisations criticise and question the election’s results, referring to the lack of democracy resulting from the rising pressure on media houses as well as the absence of democracy ensuring standards like the 10% threshold to enter parliament in Turkey. Focussing on current election, especially the very fast transfer of the election’s results gave rise to questions as they were presented in media while counting of votes was still running in several polling locations.

Last issue was also noticed and raised to question by Selda Asal, assisting in a polling spot placed in Kağithane/ Istanbul. She is an artist, currently living and working in Berlin but visiting her home base Istanbul frequently. In June she was also election assistant at the same polling station, both times as the one, who controls the ID cards’ validity. She didn’t notice any vote rigging in her office this time – but it makes her even more sceptical she says. Referring to last time in June, Asal found 6 fake ID cards as well as voting boxes had been thrown away, found after election in refuse containers. But this time she didn’t detect any manipulation, even the chaotic situation in front of the District Election Board can be criticised in terms of offering manipulating opportunities. It’s the reason for her being even more sceptical, thinking there could have been new ways found to manipulate the election’s result. Indeed she’s not alone with her opinion and there is room for speculations but – nothing is for sure and it’s more than uncertain that things can be proved anyway. What is for sure is the issue that election campaigns were run under hard conditions, not offering equal opportunities.

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Starting from the beginning, the first general election in June the 7th, rather it`s outcome, was the trigger button for nowadays’ re-election. AKP lost its majority and therefore had to find a partner to build a government. Moreover with HDP, gaining around 13%, for the first time a pro-Kurdish party entered parliament and the Erdoğan and his party was obviously unsatisfied with the election’s outcome. What followed were unenthusiastic slack coalition-building efforts finally leading to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for new election. But following developments made it hard to run a proper election campaign. The suicide bombers, who killed more than 100 people in Suruç and Ankara, not only led to a state of civil war in southeast of Turkey but also to a feeling of fear within the whole country. AKP made IS responsible, but also mentioning a possible connection to PKK – an opinion published by all government-orientated newspapers and TV stations. As the OSCEPA recently published it’s Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions about Turkey’s general election in November 2015, mentioning: „The last two weeks of the campaign were marked by an increased number of attacks against and arrests of members and activists, predominantly from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).“.

There is no doubt, that AKP used those arising events for their benefit, using fear and the unstable situation as the weak point to gain votes. Talking to Selda Asal, the idea about a bigger plan behind recent actions and developments can be formed. Asal describes Erdoğan as a perfect strategist who can lead actions in the favoured direction and – referring to the last 5 months – ‘’can make you feel insecure’’. Indeed the suicide bombers and the following developments were the main anchor for AKP’s election campaign, following the strategy of promoting votes with keywords like stability and security even though it is questionable if the unstable situation wasn’t also a product of AKP’S politics. Last point mentioned refers to critics about the party’s members having closed their eyes to ISIL movement for a long time. Furthermore it seams kind of ironic, watching AKP’s way of dividing Turkish society into them and us – but promoting themselves with the campaign title Sen Ben Yok Türkiye Var (There is no you and me, there is just (one) Turkey) showing unity in a time, government working against unity and especially against those ones not supporting the party’s opinion. Indeed under current developments a slogan like this can only leave a bad aftertaste.

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Apart from all speculations, it is for sure that things nowadays as well as in the past are not working in accordance to values of democracy and freedom and that recent election had been held under hard and even unequal conditions. Anyway the election’s result is fixed. Life goes on for everybody. AKP’s chairman Davutoğlu speaks about a new Turkey starting from now on. How this Turkey has to look like could be guessed from actions in the past as well as recent ones after election. AKP seems to steer their course – a course within stability and insecurity is far apart: New discharges of journalists, again leading journal editors of one government-critical magazine have been arrested as well as its website has been blocked and fighter jets have continued attacking PKK bases. But movements like Gezi showed in the past that Turkish citizens have the will and power to speak out loud and proved more than once that they take action to stand for their democratic rights. Hopefully that’s still the case.

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