What if this power blackout happens on election day?
On June 7, just 67 days from now, Turkey will go to the polls in what many in Ankara regard as one of the most crucial elections for the future of the country. In a weeks’ time, all political parties will have to submit their lists of parliamentary candidates to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) and will gear up their election campaign. Chairmen of the parties have intensified work on their election manifestos, which will surely include election promises in various fields. The election air is yet to dominate the agenda after this week as parliament goes to recess.
At a time when the entire country is getting prepared for the elections, almost all of Turkey went into darkness because of a massive power blackout on March 31. More than half of the country’s 81 cities, from the West coast to the East, were negatively affected by the breakdown which left millions in the dark and subways and trams futile, making the lives of millions much more difficult.
When this column was being written late afternoon March 31, there was no official statement from the Energy Ministry on what caused such a massive power grid to go down. Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, who was in Slovakia as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s delegation, admitted they were not in a position to confirm the cause of the massive blackout, as he said he cannot rule out a cyber-attack either. Furthermore, it was Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who did not oppose the idea of a terrorist attack when reporters approached to him to ask the reason for the massive blackout.
For Turkey, a member of the G-20 and the world’s 17th largest economy, leaving more than half of the country without electricity and being unable to explain its cause for at least half a day should be worthy of deep analysis. Trade and industry chambers will surely calculate how much the country lost during the power blackout but there are some other uncountable damages as well. Such a long and massive power grid outage may leave a country open to cyber-attacks, causing unrepairable weaknesses to national security.
However, along with all such issues, the government and all senior security civil servants should also think about what they would do if such an outage happens on June 7, the day of the elections. Memories about electricity shortages on March 30, 2014, on the day local elections were held, and strong reactions from opposition parties on election security are still fresh in this country.
That’s why the massive blackout of March 31 should be seriously investigated and all measures to avoid its repetition should be taken. Instead of criticizing experts, the Chamber of Electric Engineers and others, the government should seek cooperation with these institutions to this end. It’s pretty obvious that as those responsible for the country’s malfunctioning electricity production and distribution system, the government can hardly restore it without assistance. As for the question posed in the title, the answer is just one word: Nightmare.