Turkish politics needs to be transparent for healthy polls

Turkish politics needs to be transparent for healthy polls

A report prepared by the Checks and Balances Network (Denge ve Denetleme Ağı) under the title of “Financing the politics and election campaign: Competition, Transparency and Accountability” is shedding light on the untold part of the Turkish election system and, in general, its politics. Written by Professor Ömer Faruk Gençkaya from Marmara University, the report aims at launching a debate on the issue of financing politics as its foreword notes that problems with regard to this issue have negative impacts on political and economic systems.

One of the fundamental problems standing in the way of bringing about transparency and accountability to elections is the fact that there is no law regulating the financing of parliamentary and municipal elections even though it’s a constitutional obligation. 

“This issue of financing politics reached an imponderable dimension,” Gençkaya told a narrow group of journalists on May 22 as he outlined the details of his report. “This report is not aiming to criticize the government and political parties but to guide them,” he said, adding that Turkey should immediately deal with the issue after the June 7 polls and address the shortcomings.

One of the findings Gençkaya underlined is that the unrecorded financing of politics has been in sharp increase, especially in election years. “The unrecorded inflow of foreign currency has been on a remarkable increase since the 2011 elections. The law on the repatriation of capital that was passed in 2013 has turned this nature of the unregistered economy into a systemic problem. The inflow and exit of money can hardly be registered,” he said. A similar situation is observed in the distribution of social aid, he added, recalling that there was no document as to which social segments and which regions have benefited from this aid.

This problem of financing politics not only addresses governmental shortcomings but also municipalities run by opposition parties, making the issue more general and structural.

Another important problem is the institutional insufficiencies of the state bodies tasked with regulating and overseeing the elections, he reminded. The Supreme Election Board (YSK) is the sole authority dealing with elections but its capacity in securing healthy and fair elections is diminishing. “The YSK experienced difficulties in conducting presidential elections of last year. This upcoming election is worse,” he said.

The uniqueness of this election is surely President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s initiative of holding public rallies in an obvious effort to garner votes for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The opposition parties have applied to the YSK to intervene and call on Erdoğan to halt these rallies but the election watchdog said that it has no such authority.

“At least, the YSK would say this: ‘There is no any regulation on this issue. The next Parliament should immediately regulate this in order to avoid such discussions in the future,’” he said. However, Gençkaya rightly underlines that not everything can be sorted out through laws. “There is no regulation on the president’s joining election campaigns in Europe either because there are customs and traditions. We should also develop these values,” he stressed.

Unfortunately, President Erdoğan’s understanding of politics makes developing such values very difficult. That’s the main reason why Turkey is speedily distancing itself from the contemporary world and increasing its isolation.