Both sides to revise their election campaigns
This column on Monday had suggested that the Supreme Election Council’s (YSK) decision on the Istanbul polls would constitute yet another litmus test for the ailing Turkish democracy. It’s unfortunate to witness that Turkey has failed this test at the hands of the YSK, whose rule has created a major legal and political controversy.
Legal experts find scores of problematic aspects in regards to the YSK’s verdict. It had to reject one appeal filed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on the grounds that all the irregularities cited in their petition had to be dealt with before the election and not afterwards.
Another controversy surrounding the decision is the fact that it cancels only the election for mayor of Istanbul, although voters cast ballots for municipal councils, district mayors and neighborhood heads at the same election and in the same envelope. It may be because the AKP won 25 out of 39 districts, but lost the Istanbul mayoral seat to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) after 25 years.
The CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu was first to show reaction against the YSK’s decision late May 6 at a crowded public rally he held around midnight. The CHP convened its party assembly on May 7 before its chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced the decision not to boycott the polls on June 23, with vows that İmamoğlu will win the title again.
Kılıçdaroğlu stressed that the YSK’s decision was no longer an issue of Istanbul, but of Turkish democracy, which has not been in good shape for a long time. He, therefore, called on all the democrats of Turkey to unite and heal the bleeding Turkish democracy.
This call seems to be well-received by various segments of the public. The YSK’s decision has obviously triggered an outcry by well-known artists and prominent figures as well as businesspeople. A social media campaign was immediately launched under the hashtag #everythingwillbeverygood, with the participation of thousands of Turkish people in support of İmamoğlu.
Turkey’s leading private carriers offered free cancellation and changes to all tickets in and out of Istanbul that overlap with June 23, a move which was later followed by the Turkish Airlines. Some tourism agencies, as well as associations of hotels in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, have issued similar offers to their guests who had booked on dates overlapping the date of the renewed elections so that they can vote in the re-run.
Felicity (Saadet) Party’s Istanbul’s nominee Necdet Gökçınar who gained 103,000 votes in the March 31 polls declared that he is ready to withdraw his candidacy before the re-run to be to the leverage of İmamoğlu should his party decide in this direction too. Zehra Güner Karaoğlu from Turkey’s Communist Party (TKP) said she will not run and instead support the CHP’s candidate with her more than 10,000 votes. This trend would put İmamoğlu and the AKP’s candidate Binali Yıldırım alone in the race for Istanbul.
Following the YSK decision, both sides will surely revise their election campaign for June 23. İmamoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu will continue to pursue a positive campaign, keeping hopes high through an inclusive and soft language. As stated by Kılıçdaroğlu, many in the CHP believe that İmamoğlu will win once again — this time with a bigger difference.
The AKP side signals a change in the campaign, with Erdoğan holding talks with all his aides to this end. As expected, the president will be in the driver’s seat of the AKP’s campaign process as he said he will hold rallies in various districts of Istanbul. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli had vowed to set up his headquarters in Istanbul for a more efficient campaign process for Yıldırım.
As seen, it is not that easy for Turkey to return to normalcy. However, this is not unique to Turkey. Countries suffering from poor democratic norms often pass through such painful and dire straits. It’s very hard to approve some governmental voices who claim that the YSK decision is a victory of democracy, or is the best step on the way to strengthen Turkish democracy. The best step for democracy is taken when everybody shows respect to the election results. The cancellation of the Istanbul polls naturally sparks a struggle for democracy to be manifested on June 23.