Turkish minister vows to keep lights on during polls

Turkish minister vows to keep lights on during polls

Turkish minister vows to keep lights on during polls

AA Photo

Turkey’s top energy official has vowed that the government will take all measures to prevent electricity shortages during the June 7 elections after opposition parties expressed concerns because of a massive power blackout on March 31 that left most of the country in darkness. 

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said his ministry would take necessary measures to keep the lights on during the upcoming parliamentary election while responding to the claims of the opposition parties. His statement came as the head of the electricity distribution unit announced his resignation from his post over the massive breakdown.

“We see that opposition parties have already begun to try to hide behind power cuts that may occur on election day. Politically speaking, I do not regard this as correct. All parties will compete under equal conditions in the elections,” Yıldız told reporters at a press conference. 
A massive power outage affected more than 76 million people in 80 out of 81 Turkish provinces for up to nine hours on March 31. As a probe to find out the blackout was launched last week, oppositional parties have voiced their concerns about the protection of the polls because of a possible repeat of electricity shortages on June 7.

Opposition parties recalled electricity shortages that took place during the March 30, 2014, local polls that precipitated speculation about possible electoral irregularities.

Yıldız drew strong criticisms at the time for blaming the cuts on a cat that entered a power distribution unit.

“I’m not joking, my friends. A cat entered a power distribution unit. It was the cause of the blackout [in Ankara], and it’s not the first time that it has happened. It is wrong to link it with the elections. It’s wrong to cry ‘foul play,’” Yıldız said.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Mansur Yavaş accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of vote rigging in the mayoral competition in Ankara and recently brought his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

TEİAŞ head resigns

At the press conference, Yıldız also said the head of the Turkish Electricity Transmission Company (TEİAŞ) had resigned following the massive electricity blackout on March 31.

“We also evaluate that there was an operational error in addition to a technical breakdown,” Yıldız said, adding that five main distribution lines were disabled during work on the lines.

Some of the responsible personnel have been suspended from their posts, while TEİAŞ head Kemal Yıldır stepped down, Yıldız said. The investigation to determine the exact cause of the breakdown has been completed and all technical details will be shared soon, the minister added.

Opposition demands minister’s resignation

Opposition parties, however, did not deem the resignation of the TEİAŞ head adequate, calling for Yıldız’s resignation instead.

“They made the head of the electricity company a scapegoat,” CHP deputy parliamentary group leader Akif Hamzçebi told reporters April 6. “If there is someone who should be resigning, it would be the minister of energy himself.”

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy leader Oktay Vural underlined the same point, criticizing the government for concealing the incident.

“You, as the minister, should have shouldered the responsibility, not the general manager, and you should have resigned,” Vural said. “During the last elections, they found the cat guilty, this time there is no cat to blame, so people are trying to blame it on each other.”