Turkey to vote its fate in an unfair election

Turkey has never seen such an election that can be considered the worst in terms of democratic standards, fair and equal competition conditions and ethical values since the multi-party system was introduced in 1950.
The democratic quality of the outcome of an election process that fails to provide fair and equal conditions as a sine qua non prerequisite of democratic competition in the campaigning period will certainly be controversial. Being concerned about this absurdity of course does not entail being completely hopeless. If the nation is still given the opportunity to go to the polls against all odds and unfairness, we should keep alive the hope that this opportunity may eliminate that democracy deficit and rectify scandalous deviations from democracy and the rule of law. While nurturing a hope that is not blind at all, it would be beneficial to add a footnote to history by writing about the moral misery and anti-democratic primitivism that are unseemly in terms of democracy, the rule of law and human development.
This election will be remembered for the partisan efforts to earn votes for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is dreaming of introducing an absurd system which he refers to as a presidential system, occasionally bringing up examples from Saudi Arabia, Central Asian republics or the United Kingdom, although he andquot[swore] upon [his] honor and integrity before the Turkish nation and before history toandhellip perform without bias the functions that [he has] assumed.and” You may be quick to raise objections, saying, andquotBut Saudi Arabia and the UK are not governed by a presidential system.andquot This is already where the problem lies. Erdogan is seeking to establish a one-man dictatorship in the purest form. But he is trying to make sure this dictatorial regime is known to the nation as a andquotpresidential systemandquot even though it will enable him to exercise all powers and authorities of the executive, but be legally unaccountable.
Given the fact that Erdogan has managed to make his supporters believe that theft, bribery, corruption, lying and slander are normal and moral acts, I can hardly claim he will not succeed in making them endorse Saudi Arabiaand’s monarchy as a model presidential system for Turkey. The number of political scientists and jurists attending a meeting organized by the pro-Erdogan Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) to discuss the presidential system is clear proof of the progress he has made in this regard. Also, the oxymoronic headline, andquotPresidential system takes center stage in parliamentary election,andquot run by a pro-Erdogan English-language daily is another sign of the progress. One thing is certain: Erdogan is acting with the great confidence of knowing that many groups who are in a symbiotic relationship with him will readily accept even the most dictatorial system if it is marketed as a presidential one by him.
Who is investing the greatest effort in election campaigns, holding the highest number of election rallies and meetings? We can safely answer this question with andquotErdogan,andquot although he is supposed to remain neutral and refrain from uttering a single remark about the election or the candidates of political parties, according to his constitutional oath. As a person who uses public resources generously, urges public officials and students to attend election rallies, mobilizes thousands of police officers for these rallies and uses public resources and discretionary funds recklessly promote the AKP in the coming elections, Erdogan is exerting a passionate performance that is hardly proper for his current position as president.
His days are like Tuesday, when he held a rally in anduskandudar, Istanbul, in the morning, another in Hakkari at noon and another in Ankara in the evening. Imagine a president who constantly spreads hatred and hostility among the public, conducts long tirades that are rife with lies and slander against dissident groups of society and makes sure these speeches are aired live by at least 10 national TV channels. The mere fact that Erdogan is conducting a partisan campaign using public resources is enough to cast a shadow on the trustworthiness and reliability of the election.
Erdogan may be the very engine of the AKPand’s unethical election campaign, but the very abnormality or strangeness of this campaign is not limited to him or what he is doing. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu, too, is being unethical or immoral by using unlimited public resources in this election campaign as though the state aid that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars his party receives from the Treasury is not enough. The state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporationand’s (TRT)hannels and the state-owned Anadolu news agency — which are supposed to act like objective public broadcasting agencies — have already been turned into propaganda machines for the AKP. Those private media outlets that dare to cover election campaigns of the opposition parties face pressures and threats from the ruling party. Some pro-government officials have gone as far as to demand that dissident or critical media outlets be denied the services of state-controlled infrastructure, such as satellite services. Day in and day out, Erdogan, Davutoilu or some other government official threaten dissident or critical media outlets or bring legal action against newspapers, TV channels or journalists at the courts they have designed and control.
Turkeyand’s state-owned media outlets have long been in the service of the AKP and Erdogan. In addition, there are a number of pro-Erdogan private media outlets that are financed with public funds. What these media outlets do in an effort to silence all critical or dissident groups with lies and slander can hardly be described as journalism. Some groups that havenand’t matured enough to attain this position are trying to survive in the blast of government-induced pressure. A handful of remaining free media outlets are struggling to perform their essential tasks by taking the risk of paying a big price. Threats of death or imprisonment against journalists as well as threats of confiscating critical newspapers and TV channels are being hurled about every day. Under these circumstances, Davutoilu and Erdogan are pretending to conduct a democratic election campaign.
Erdogan and the AKP not only dominate the media outlets. They also place obstacles to the election work by opposition parties using the Supreme Election Board (YSK), the judiciary, the police department, the governorates and municipalities. Virtually no placards and banners other than those aertising the AKP and Davutoilu are allowed to be hung in the streets. Opposition parties are permitted to hold election rallies only if they do not coincide with those that are scheduled by the AKP or Erdogan. Although it is very meticulous in verifying if other parties comply with democratic and legal rules, the YSK turns a blind eye to all sorts of arbitrariness, unlawfulness and abuse by the AKP or Erdogan.
The fuel for the AKPand’s and Erdoganand’s aggressive campaign consists of lies, lies and only lies. In the election rallies organized using the public resources under the pretext of opening facilities which were repeatedly opened in the past, Erdogan gives speeches that are decorated with lies and slander in an effort to polarize the society. In his partyand’s placards and banners as well as in the speeches he delivers, Davutoilu repeatedly tells lies and hurls slander at individuals or groups. For instance, Davutoilu claims that Turkey has managed to produce a 100-percent domestic combat helicopter. Turkey has now concentrated on producing a 100-percent warplane, he adds. It is up to me to tell you that the engine of that 100-percent domestically produced helicopter is made by Rolls-Royce, and it is up to you to guess the rest.
Given all these pressures, threats, lies and slander being tossed around, how can one nurture an unshakable belief that the election will be held in a reliable and secure manner? Who can be sure that the politicians who legitimize theft, bribery and graft and who do not hesitate to tell lies wonand’t rig the election outcome? In fact, no one is sure of this possibility and the civil society and opposition parties are extremely vigilant about the election security. For some reason, doubts seem to focus on the AKP. The AKP has become a usual suspect in terms of election rigging. The public is perfectly aware that if they cannot effectively prevent election-rigging efforts, neither the government-controlled YSK nor the AKP-dominated judicial organs will take any steps to address these efforts.
This is not all that the ruling party is doing to its rivals, with complete disregard for the most fundamental democratic and ethical rules or principles. Every day, fake police operations are being conducted to change the agenda. Thus, civil society organizations (CSOs), charities, businessmen and benefactors face government-initiated crackdowns, charging them with being members of a andquotparallel state,andquot a concept developed by the ruling party when it was caught red-handed in the graft and bribery scandals that went public on Dec. 17, 2013, and which havenand’t been substantiated for the past 18 months. Dozens of people are being detained on a daily basis. Some of them are arrested with imaginary charges and without any evidence. Worse still, some independent deputy candidates were imprisoned several days after they announced they would run for Parliament. To our dismay, those who conduct the election campaigns on behalf of these independent candidates faced the same fate. No one including journalists, trade unions and even the strongest business organizations like Turkeyand’s elite business club Turkish Industrialists and Businessmenand’s Association (TanduSiAD)an be safe from the wrath of Erdogan and the ruling party. The academics and intellectuals who dare to express their critical views have had their share from this despotism as well.
Turkey is going to the polls in such a dark atmosphere, replete with pressures and unlawful acts — a few of which I have tried to summarize in this article. Against all odds, our hopes are still strong about this election, which is a life-or-death matter for the Turkish democracy. Indeed, Turkey will make its most important decision on June 7. This election will either submit Turkey to the insatiable ambitions and dictatorship dreams of an immoral lot or be a springboard to restore democracy and rule of law.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman