Social media trolls of Turkey's ruling AKP now seen as ‘reason for election failure’
A social media user had tweeted a picture of a jumping cat that she jokingly described as a 'representation of the return of Esat Ç,' one of the most popular pro-government 'trolls' whose account was briefly suspended due to a massive spamming campaign by opposition supporters on April 3.Pundits in Turkey’s pro-government media have been engaging in a self-criticism after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its single-party majority in the June 8 election, with one prominent columnist blaming the AKP’s social media trolls for the party’s drop in fortunes.
“Why did it happen?” asked daily Yeni Şafak columnist İsmail Kılıçarslan on June 9, emphasizing that conspiracy theories should be put aside to explain the AKP’s electoral shortcomings.
“It happened because those so-called [AKP] supporters would declare me a ‘crypto’ and ‘traitor’ for writing this article. It happened because I was cursed when I asked why the social media policy of [the AKP] was left to a group of useless, nondescript people,” Kılıçarslan wrote.
Kılıçarslan also suggested that the drop in the AKP’s votes could be explained by the fact that the average voter’s economic concerns were being ignored, all criticism was being silenced, and certain individuals who are “hated by the voter base have been made party advisors.”
Coy criticism of Erdoğan’s domination
Meanwhile, pro-government daily Star columnist Ahmet Taşgetiren’s June 9 article, titled “What happened and what could happen?” targeted some gentle criticism at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s domineering style.
“The AK Parti has lost a significant number of votes. Without doubt, this will be analyzed,” he wrote.
Besides the recent stalling of the Kurdish peace bid and what he described as the inefficient local campaigns of deputy candidates, Taşgetiren took a few snipes at Erdoğan.
“On the one hand, [Erdoğan’s public speeches in support of the AK Parti] revived the ‘Tayyip Erdoğan enthusiasm’ within the party. But on the other hand they led more moderate AK Parti voters to acknowledge that those who criticized Erdoğan over his ‘lack of impartiality’ were right,” he wrote.
Fadime Özkan, another Star columnist, said in her June 9 piece that the election results “should be blessed as the decision of the people.”
“The party management knows about the issues that disturbed AK Parti voters. Shortcomings should be addressed, the burdens put on the party’s shoulders should be thrown away, and voters’ demands should be taken into account,” Özkan said.
Sabah newspaper’s Ankara representative, Okan Müderrisoğlu, also wrote on June 9 that the ruling party was now engaging in a process of reflection and self-criticism.
Replacing the party head, adjusting the president-prime minister relationship, debating the new presidential palace, addressing the worsening economy, assessing reactions against new deputy candidates, and heeding criticism against rising “arrogance” are among the issues being discussed, according to Müderrisoğlu.