Things that Erdoğan’s advisers may be hesitant to say
On April 13, just days from the constitutional referendum in Turkey, the media attack by the “yes” front reached a new peak.
Rallies by President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım followed one after another, and all were broadcast live by almost all national channels – either voluntarily or because private companies feel it’s a good idea to do so. The chain broadcasts started at 2:10 p.m. in the Aegean province of Kütayha with Yıldırım, whose speech lasted 20 minutes. That was followed by Erdoğan from the Black Sea town of Ordu at 2:46 p.m. (just 10 minutes after Yıldırım) and lasted for 44 minutes. Then it was Erdoğan again in the neighboring Black Sea town of Giresun. Starting at 4:30 p.m., Erdoğan spoke in a broadcast that continued for nearly 38 minutes. As soon as Erdoğan’s speech was over, the TV channels started to give Yıldırım’s speech in the western town of Bilecik, which started at 5:30 p.m. and lasted for 26 minutes.
In summary, a total of 2 hours and 8 minutes on almost all national and many local TV channels in Turkey were occupied by live “yes” campaigning.
In the evening hours, Erdoğan was on the pro-government TV channel TGRT and Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who has lent support to Erdoğan’s proposal to consolidate all executive power in the presidency, was on Habertürk, of course carefully arranged not to overshadow each other, despite the usual competition rules among different media companies.
It is practically impossible for any news channel to interrupt an address by either the president or the PM in order to report on the rally of a politician from the “no” front, but the opposite is not only possible but frequently real. The time allocated for the “yes” campaign during interviews with various ministers spontaneously “visiting” the newsrooms of channels, along with other interviews with the executives of the MHP, which has given support to the “yes” campaign of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).
It was lucky for Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to find a live broadcast opportunity – not on the pro-government channels – for a total of 39 minutes in two sessions, because he was delivering his speeches for the “no” campaign in the morning hours. The rallies or remarks of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue, are not broadcast live anyway and can hardly find a place in the news bulletins without risking raising people’s eyebrows.
The news channels are not able to broadcast their hourly bulletins when they coincide with the president’s or PM’s speeches and when they can, the bulletins are mainly quotes from what they said at the last stop.
The media strategy is clear: To take up as many minutes as possible on the airwaves and as many centimeters as possible in the newspapers for the “yes” campaign, with most pollsters showing “yes” is slightly ahead of “no.”
But is there no adviser for the president among the dozens of them who can come up and say that this may backfire? Is there no adviser telling him that this may cause perception blindness?
And this is not limited to the media campaign.
Doesn’t Erdoğan have even one courageous adviser to tell him that keeping the promises to reinstate death penalty – should the referendum be approved – could cause irreparable damage to Turkey’s relations with the European Union? Or that such action could cause serious political and economic consequences, especially at a time when the cash deficit in the Treasury has hit a record high because of expenditures and financial promises given to voters during the referendum campaign?
Is there no adviser to tell Erdoğan that the Western allies of Turkey are not answering his challenges nowadays so as not to be drawn into the referendum campaign, as they have drawn their lessons from the rows with Germany and the Netherlands, but that their stance is likely to reverse as soon as the referendum is over?
Is there any adviser or friend of Erdoğan left to let him read this article at least?