The pitiful state of Turkish politics and media
Just a few days ago almost all dominant names in newspapers and on TV screens in Turkey were saying there was no possibility of an early election. Those who dared to suggest there were economic and political indications for a snap election were accused of “talking with an opposition mouth.”*
Up until April 17, President Tayyip Erdoğan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) officials had persistently stated that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held in November 2019, in line with the scheduled time. Erdoğan even teased social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu by saying: “Why? Are we having an economic crisis? Is anyone throwing down a checkout counter in front of the prime minister’s office?” That was a reference to a protest by a bankrupt shopkeeper against center-left Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit at the height of the economic crisis in 2001. That crisis dragged Turkey to an early election in 2002, bringing Erdoğan to office.
As Erdoğan was denying all possibility of an early election, going so far as to show it as a sign of weakness, the chorus of heroes of the day were all signing the same tune: No early elections!
Even on April 17, when Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, an election ally of Erdoğan, said there was a need for an early election and Aug. 26 would be a good date, some members of the chorus who desperately wanted to show their side mildly mocked Bahçeli, citing Erdoğan’s words delivered a few hours later referring to November 2019.
But everything has changed momentarily when Erdoğan announced on Apr 18 that they have agreed with Bahçeli to have the elections on June 24, much earlier than Bahçeli suggested. Those symbols of integrity in Turkish papers and TV screens who are now dominating the mainstream media as well, have started to make detailed comment on why and how the country must go to snap polls sooner the better and the decision was hundred percent correct. (It’s better not to bother yourselves to search for a word written or said by them about the journalists and writers held in prison with terrorism and espionage accusations.)
However, there are still some who are trying to maintain their journalistic responsibility, with some reporting that Erdoğan had told AK Party executives in a closed-door meeting of the necessity to finish off “that party,” implying the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
One must keep in mind that the upcoming snap elections on June 24 will be held under state of emergency, which has been in place since shortly after the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt. Turkey used to have a good reputation for free elections and ballot box security, until the 2017 referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system (also held under the state of emergency). For the first time in many years, that vote saw a bitter row over irregularities in the results, along with debates about the impartiality of the Supreme Election Board (YSK).
So the outlook in Turkey is pitiful for both the media and for politics. It is also pitiful for the opposition: The latest example of this sad state of affairs came on April 20, when Öztürk Yılmaz, the CHP’s deputy chair in charge of foreign policy, declared his candidacy for the presidency. His announcement came while CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was still saying the party’s executive committee will decide on the party’s candidate.
Clearly Turkish politics and media had seen better times.
* Including yours truly, as in the following examples: “Is an early election now a possibility?” (HDN, Jan. 14, 2018), “Election mood has started early in Turkey” (HDN, Nov. 29, 2017), and “An early election on Turkey’s horizon?” (HDN, Feb. 26, 2018).