Are Turkey’s Elections Legitimate?
Citizens of Turkey went to the polls on May 14 to cast their vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections, with official turnout reaching a record 88.9%.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and his main rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), went head-to-head in the election.
Erdogan scored 49.50% against Kilicdaroglu’s 44.89%. A third candidate, nationalist Sinan Ogan, picked up 5.17% of the vote.
The head of the Supreme Election Council (YSK), the highest electoral authority in Turkey, said no candidate secured the majority needed to win the elections. A run-off will therefore take place on May 28. It appears that Erdogan is in a strong position to win a third term. Even so, according to multiple surveys and polls prior to the elections, Erdogan and his fascist ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), could lose the elections.
Turkey’s elections, however, are not free or fair. This is because all major state institutions are controlled by Erdogan’s loyalists, including the Supreme Election Council (YSK) and the Anadolu Agency (AA), who declare the results. YSK is responsible for the administration and jurisdiction of the elections in Turkey.
Fraud during vote recording process
Although both the opposition and the ruling alliance initially declared victory, the state-funded YSK and AA claim that Erdogan is leading. It is very likely that we shall never know the true result of the elections. The vote counting and recording processes, as well as announcements of the results, are not carried out legitimately. Many complaints and objections regarding “cheating” or fraud during YSK’s vote recording process were reported by the opposition media and the opposition parties.
For instance, in the town of Bismil town in the province of Diyarbakir, a stronghold of the Kurdish political movement, 279 people voted and 267 of those ballots were valid. According to the official report prepared at the ballot box, 233 voted for the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP). None voted for the Turkish supremacist MHP. According to the Supreme Election Council’s announcement, however, the MHP got 233 votes whereas the pro-Kurdish party got none. The official Twitter page of the Bismil branch of the YSP called the incident “theft.”
The Twitter page of “HDP Europe” of the pro-Kurdish HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) announced:
“There are multiple reports showing that the Green Left Party’s votes were registered to Erdogan’s coalition partner, far-right nationalists, MHP. There are many voting frauds taking place especially in Kurdish populated cities.”
The newspaper Yeni Ozgur Politika reported on May 16:
“It turned out that the votes received by the Green Left Party in dozens of cities in Turkey and northern Kurdistan [southeast Turkey] were recorded [as votes of] other parties, mostly the MHP, on the YSK’s Political Party Portal.”
Meanwhile, a 10-member observer delegation from Spain arrived in Turkey to monitor the elections upon the invitation of the Green Left Party. They were detained by Turkish police on election day and deported the next day, on May 15.
Kurds held hostage in Turkish jails
Another reason the election is neither free nor fair is that thousands of Kurds, including mayors, members of parliament, and journalists, are in Turkish jails for “terrorism” charges. The actual reason is their opposition to Erdogan’s dictatorship and requests for equal rights for Kurds. Therefore, they do not enjoy the freedom of political engagement. This includes the co-heads of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. The HDP is also facing a closure case at Turkey’s Constitutional Court. Because of this, the HDP entered the elections under the umbrella of the Green Left Party (YSP) in case it would be closed down in the midst of the election process.
Discrimination against Kurds who request national rights is a major obstacle impeding Turkey’s democratization. Because of the strong anti-Kurdish sentiment in both the Islamist ruling party and the nationalist-secular-Islamist opposition, neither side supports a Kurdish right to self-determination. However, recognizing the Kurdish right to self-rule in Turkey is key to resolving the Kurdish issue peacefully and democratizing Turkey.
Erdogan and his supporters
Erdogan often calls his opponents “terrorists.” Currently, the two groups that are most often targeted for supposedly being or supporting terrorists are the Kurds and those allegedly close to the movement of the Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, now in self-exile in the United States. Erdogan’s government further labels the Gülenist movement — ironically, a former ally of the government – “Fethullahist terrorist organization” or “FETO.” Erdogan claims his government is fighting against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), FETO and ISIS – despite the well-documented support Erdogan’s regime has provided for ISIS.
“PKK members, FETO members, and a wide array of terrorist organizations all over the world support Mr. Kemal [Kilicdaroglu] on May 14 with all their might,” Erdogan said in an election rally in Ankara on May 1.
The venue where Erdogan held the rally in Ankara was decorated with banners that read “Reis [chieftain, i.e. Erdogan] proudly presents: UAV, SİHA, AKINCI, KIZIL ELMA more coming soon”.
UAV stands for “unmanned combat aerial vehicle” and SIHA is its Turkish equivalent, “silahlı insansız hava aracı”. Akinci refers to “Bayraktar Akıncı” (“raider”), an unmanned combat aerial vehicle manufactured by the Turkish defense company Baykar. And Kizil Elma (“Red Apple”) refers to a Turkish irredentist goal that aims to build a greater Turkish empire “from Gibraltar [on Spain’s south coast] to Hedjaz [in the Arabian Peninsula] and from the Balkans to Asia,” according to the director of communications of the Turkish presidency, Fahrettin Altun.
The Republic of Turkey was established in 1923. Erdogan has for years claimed that 2023 will mark the “Century of Turkey”. He said in another election rally that “We will build the Turkish century together with you shoulder to shoulder. We will open the doors of a great and powerful Turkey with you.”
Despite Erdogan’s government’s countless human rights violations and crimes against humanity in and outside of Turkey, Erdogan still gets the votes of many millions of people. This means his loyalists care nothing about human rights violations.
The election results also demonstrate how blindly ideologically driven Turkish Islamists are. They actively support Turkey’s wars and invasions in the region, and its abuses against other nations and minorities.
Also, Erdogan’s government responded to the February earthquakes in such an inefficient, irresponsible, and lackadaisical way. Erdogan even threatened the political opposition after the earthquakes. The earthquake survivors were ignored and abandoned for days by the government.
However, even the government’s poor response to the earthquake tragedy and the increasing poverty in the country does not seem to have greatly affected the political leanings of Erdogan’s supporters.
Furthermore, the Islamist Huda Par (Free Cause Party), which is affiliated with the Kurdish Hizbollah terror group, has formed an alliance with Erdogan. Many people joined Erdogan’s election rallies waving Huda Par flags. Hizbollah kidnapped, tortured, and murdered many civilians in Turkey during the 1990s. Because of this alliance, in the upcoming period, four Hizbollah supporters will reportedly become members of parliament.
The opposition alliance:
Turkey’s six-party opposition electoral alliance, also known as “Table of Six”, consists of Turkey’s main Kemalist party (CHP), a Turkish fascist party (Good/Iyi Party), the Democrat Party (whose leader entered the parliament as a Good Party member), an Islamist party (Felicity Party/Saadet), and two parties established by Erdogan’s former allies, the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) as well as the Future Party (GP).
This does not seem to be a truly pro-democracy alternative to Erdogan’s regime, which came to power in 2002. Turkey’s previous governments are largely responsible for the elimination of non-Muslim communities in Anatolia, such as Christians and Yazidis. They also oppressed Kurds and even declined to officially recognize the ethnic identity of Kurds or their language. Neither did they officially recognize the faith of Alevis or their places of worship, known as “cem houses.”
Turkish opposition political leaders such as Good Party’s leader, Meral Aksener, and Ankara’s mayor, Mansur Yavas, come from the Grey Wolf fascist political movement that aims to establish a Turkic empire based on Turkish supremacy. And Islamists believe in Islamic supremacy and their worldview is antithetical to democracy and human rights.
The opposition alliance also represents the Turkish state tradition when it comes to foreign policy – particularly the policy towards Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Libya, and other nations. The Turkish state tradition regarding foreign policy upholds conquests, military aggression, territorial expansionism while lacking any respect for the sovereignty of other nations or the human rights of Turks and non-Turks alike.
When Erdogan, for instance, spoke of conquering the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, though without actual military action, Kilicdaroglu urged Erdogan to gather up his courage in order to invade those islands just as former PM Bulent Ecevit did when he launched Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
Addressing Erdogan, Kilicdaroglu said at a party speech on September 13, 2022:
“You say ‘I will go [to the islands] one night’ or ‘I will go in the morning’, or ‘I am about to [go/take action]’. Should they send an invitation to you for you to go? If you have the courage, you should go. Just like Ecevit… First, our soldiers landed [in Cyprus], then Ecevit came out and said, ‘Our army is in Cyprus right now.’”
This foreign policy is also a reflection of the founding ideology of Turkey, which is Turkish-Islamic supremacy. And it was Kilicdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party, CHP, that founded Turkey in 1923.
The Turkish nationalist movement completed the 1913-23 Christian genocide in Anatolia first begun by the Ottoman Empire. And when the CHP ruled Turkey from 1923 to 1950, non-Muslims and non-Turks including the survivors of the Christian genocide were exposed to severe persecution and discrimination. And no party in the opposition alliance including the CHP shows any signs of acknowledging these facts of history and apologizing for Turkish crimes. Turkey’s tragedy is that the national elections are mainly a competition between Islamists and Turkist supremacists.
But it seems that Erdogan will declare victory in the elections after the second round. It is very likely that no matter who Turkey votes for, the YSK will record the votes in a way that Erdogan’s regime instructs them. This is the default if the opposition alliance doesn’t demand a legitimate counting and recording of the votes. And winning elections will further embolden Erdogan’s regime. On May 16, Yazidi organizations reported that Turkish airstrikes hit the town of Khanesor in the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar in Iraq. The airstrike targeted an unfinished building in a populated area.
This is an obvious sign of what awaits the wider region following Erdogan’s victory in the elections. Erdogan and his fascist-jihadist alliance will continue supporting Hamas in Gaza, al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, ISIS members in and outside of Turkey and Azerbaijan in its aggressive war against Armenians. They will continue to persecute dissident Turks, Kurds, Yazidis, and Armenians, among other peoples. Thousands of Turkish and Kurdish political prisoners will continue to perish in Turkish jails. Turkey will thus continue to be a destabilizing influence in its geopolitical sphere.
Until the Kurdish political movement and other pro-democracy communities become change-making forces who truly influence politics in a positive way, nothing much will change in Turkey. The West should finally open its eyes to this alarming reality.
By: Uzay Bulut
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