Mayoral rivals warn of violence in Ankara

Mayoral rivals warn of violence in Ankara

Mayoral rivals warn of violence in Ankara

The CHP’s candidate for the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, Mansur Yavaş (C), is challenging Melih Gökçek, who has been holding the chair since 1994.

More than 100 armed provocateurs have been brought to Turkey’s capital for the purpose of sabotaging the upcoming elections, the main opposition party’s mayoral candidate for Ankara has said, citing key bodies of the state as sources for the information.

Some undesirable incidents that have taken place in the run-up to the local elections on March 30 seem set to continue, the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate for Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, Mansur Yavaş, said at a press conference at his election office on March 25.

Yavaş's remarks came a day after Ankara’s incumbent mayor, Melih Gökçek of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said assassinations against opposition leaders aimed at "dragging Turkey into chaos" were "very likely." 

“Those who have so far campaigned via separating people into camps through a strategy of tension have begun to try every way in order to get results through the same method,” Yavaş said, noting how Gökçek had frequently suggested that assassinations were likely to take place.

“According to the information obtained from the most important units of our state, a serious attack against me and my team has been planned. In order to create chaos before the elections, provocative attacks will be launched on election offices of the CHP under the guise of being conducted by the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party], and at election offices of the MHP under the guise of being conducted by the CHP. More than 100 armed provocateurs have been brought to Ankara from outside the city for this aim and the elections will be sabotaged by creating turmoil when ballot boxes are opened and votes are counted,” Yavaş said.

When asked whether he expected an “assassination,” he referred to Gökçek's own remarks about "probable assassinations."

The main opposition candidate underlined how he had not been in a position to take required measures against such probabilities other than protecting himself. “However, if there is something like this going on, it is a duty for the ruling party to take measures. Otherwise, they will be responsible for even one drop of blood being shed,” Yavaş said.

Gökçek, speaking in an interview with Ülke TV late on March 24, voiced his own concern over "probable assassination" attempts against opposition leaders, listing the names of Yavaş, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, and CHP Istanbul mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarıgül.

“God forbid, we are afraid of assassinations against leaders of opposition parties. We had earlier received various assassination notices about ourselves. This time, the hearsay that we have received has worried us. I’m afraid that it may happen to Kılıçdaroğlu, Bahçeli, Yavaş or to Sarıgül in Istanbul. I am saying this much clearly. A political assassination will be attempted. They want to drag Turkey into an environment of chaos,” Gökçek said.

Yavaş, meanwhile, also touched on the ongoing rumors about election fraud, while again reiterating that his party was not the authority to deal with this problem.

“If there is fraud, it is [the AKP’s] duty to take measures at all ballot boxes,” he said.

CHP officials attacked by unknown assailants

An incident that took place in the Sincan district of Ankara early on March 25 added to the growing sense of fear in the city. In it, five local officials from the CHP were wounded in an attack by unknown people when party officials attempted to prevent municipal police from removing the party’s posters and flags from a crossroad.

CHP Sincan district head Ömer Yılmaz and four other members were injured when a group attacked them with sticks and knives. The attackers also fired guns and damaged vehicles in the area.

Municipal police reportedly started to remove the CHP flags under the monitoring of security forces before officials from the party arrived at the scene. CHP officials talked to the municipal police and were told that the operation would stop at the district’s Polatlı Avenue.

After the CHP members began to wait at the corner of 12th Street, the group attacked them at around 1 a.m., Yılmaz said, stressing that they "could have been killed" if the police had not been present on the scene.

'Turning CHP and MHP voters against each other'

Yavaş, for his part, suggested that the towns of Gölbaşı and Etimesgut, where municipalities are held by the MHP, had particularly been targeted by provocateurs with the aim of polarizing supporters of the CHP and the MHP.

He also claimed that the CHP was "at least 4 percent ahead of the AKP" and aimed to win "at least 51 percent of the votes" on March 30.

Gökçek has held the Ankara mayoralty since 1994. Yavaş was the candidate for the MHP in the previous 2009 local elections but received only 27 percent of the vote, finishing third. Still, the result was regarded as a success, as he managed to increase the MHP’s vote rate by 10 percent from the previous local elections in 2004.

His nomination was widely considered as a reflection of the CHP’s March 2014 election policy of nominating candidates who will get the most votes in particular areas, even if they are not of CHP origin.

Yavaş was elected as Beypazarı mayor twice in a row in 1999 and 2004 from the MHP, gaining popularity not only among MHP voters but also among others, mainly due to his success at turning Beypazarı into a popular tourism spot.