The Sultans's Era: the People of Turkey About the Past Elections
Presidential and parliamentary election forecasts were held in Turkey. Despite the forecasts there was no second round of elections and the main shoo-in of the presidential race Recep Erdogan won the needed 52.5 percent of the votes. His main rival, an opposition member from the Republican People’s Party Muharrem Ince was able to earn 30.6 percent of the votes. This is a precedent for Turkey; for the first time the opposition member passed the 30 percent milestone. But still Erdogan’s time is not over yet. Why did Turkey say “yes” again to the current regime?
The Opposition Brought Hope
Izmir. June 22. About 2 million people gathered at the sea-front to support the opposition candidate Muharrem Ince. In Istanbul the opposition names an even larger number; on June 23rd, five million people got out on the streets for Ince’s speech. For the first time in a long period people really hope for changes in the country and the symbol of these changes has become the former lecturer of Physics, a secular candidate, an adherent of views of Kemal Ataturk “father of the Republic of Turkey”.
Back in April when the elections were announced, it was thought that Erdogan will not have serious opponents, until Republican People’s Party put forward Muharrem Ince’s candidature for the presidency. He was born on May 4, 1964; he graduated from the University of Balykesir, and then lectured. Ince is known as one of the inveterate opponents of Erdogan’s politics.
In his election campaign he promised to return to parliamentary republic, within 48 hours after the elections call off state of emergency that remains in force in the country after July 15, 2016. Ince also promised to be the president who will make a pivot to the West. He managed next door to impossible: to revitalize the Turkish opposition who had almost lost its power, and gather crowd of thousands without an administrative resource. Compared to other candidates Ince is the most modern candidate. He actively uses social media; e.g. he has 4.7 million followers in Twitter. His videos criticizing the authorities in power are popular on Youtube.
«Before the elections there was a feeling of forthcoming changes. And it was something new for the citizens of Turkey, who over the past years of Erdogan’s rule came to terms with his autocratic rule and open-ended opportunities. Muharrem Ince reminds me of Erdogan a little bit for his manner of speech, but he speaks about completely different things; he does not flam or promise whole mountains of gold. Probably Turks need this kind of leader. These elections could make history, but the miracle did not happen», – regrets an inhabitant of Istanbul, 30-year-old Yaroslava Gyotch.
According to the Constitution of 1982 Turkey is a presidential-parliamentary republic. In 2016 Erdogan used the unsuccessful attempt of the coup d'etat as a chance to change the situation; namely to make the political system as a fully controllable mechanism by the president. The amended Constitution draft was submitted to popular vote and on April 16 citizens of Turkey voted for the expansion of presidential power. Provided that the difference in votes was minimal: 51.41 percent said “yes” to the amendments, 48.59 percent said “no”. The voters’ turnout was 86 percent. Even at the time the referendum showed that there is a huge split in the society. The Turkish remote provinces, representatives of traditional beliefs are for the consolidation of Erdogan’s power, the modern cities, such as Istanbul and Ankara, and also Aegean and Mediterranean seashores are against it.
«For the first time I feel injustice»
Yaroslava Gyotch’s husband, a young engineer Fatih Gyotch was so impressed with the energy and ideas of Ince that he decided to go and work as an observer from the Opposition headquarters in the voting station. He felt certain that Ince will be the one who would leave Erdogans autocratic policy in the past.
«A couple of days before the election I completed training, where the observers were told about their rights and obligations. On the Election Day I was in the voting station from early morning till late at night. I can say that there were neither violations nor falsifications there. There was only one case, when a man tried to vote for his wife, but an act was drawn up on the spot in the presence of a lawyer», – says he.
After the election results Erdogan called his victory “clean”, Ince did not place in doubt the election results, declaring that he is not a kind of person who flings mud at his opponent after losing. The Turkish society also agreed with the results. The police barricaded some streets in the centre, but those measures were in vain; there were no protest actions. And the next morning after the elections the country continued to live its normal life. Although, the OSCE called the elections fraudulent. Along with that on the Election Day there were constant failures in the transparent voting system praised up by the authorities, moderated on ysk.gov.tr. website. According to the international observers during the election campaign the opposition was provided with uneven playing field. And this is what told us Yaroslava Gyotch about the vote count:
«I feel injustice for the first time. My husband and many our friends tracked the vote counting process. In their voting stations Mr. Ince was in the leading position. And at the time when the results of their blocks were not even handed to the Central Electoral Commission, Erdogan's victory was loudly being celebrated in Turkey and the new old president was making his official speech from the balcony».
According to the inhabitant of Antalya Yekaterina Djesur, the result of Erdogan's 16-year reign is obvious today.
«What do we have now? Turkish lira is falling in again. Weakening education. For example, I am resentful that they have removed the theory of Darwin from the schools, as it contradicts the religious sanctions. This year the prices for some core products have gone up enormously... There is also this absurdity that in some regions of the country people still practice conclusion of marriage with young girls. Turkey needs more modern leader».
«We are now stuck for a long time, if not forever. I feel despair, – wrote an inhabitant of Istanbul a Russian woman Kristina in Instagram, – my husband is sad and thinks of plans to leave the country. For the first time I am also thinking to return to my home country».
Cult of Personality
Nowadays the self-identification of an average Turk comes from his religion. I am a Turk, hence I am a Muslim. This kind of viewpoint fits well in Recep Erdogan’s philosophy, who is sure that Turkey must keep its Islamic identity, as told by the employee of Middle East Technical University in Ankara Ouz Yilmaz. «The fact that my friends, colleagues and I support the opposition represented by Muharrem Ince, it does not mean that everyone supports him. There is another Turkey, which is beyond our circle. It is the conservative and religious layers of the Turkish society, there are the cities like Koniya, Erzurum. And every time when Erdogan takes to the stage glorifying Allah, every time when he announces about the construction of another mosque, the heart of a Muslim Turk, who are a majority in our country, fills with joy».
As per the inhabitant of Ankara, before a typical Turk associated himself and his identity with the founder of the Republic of Turkey Kemal Ataturk. Unfortunately nowadays the cult of Kemal Ataturk has faded. A new cult has appeared to replace him and that is Recep Erdogan.
«Look at the photographs of Istanbul of 30 years ago. You will not see any covered woman. And now it has become a common occurrence even in big cities, – says Ouz Yilmaz.
He mentioned that in 2023 the country will celebrate the Republic of Turkey founded by Ataturk. And the irony is that this date the republic will celebrate led by sultanistic and Islamist Erdogan.
Paralyzed On Standby Mode
However, according to 37 year old inhabitant of Aydin, Kenan Kaymaz, Turkey needs a leader like Erdogan.
«He loves his nation, he as an active reformer. It is during his reign that such pompous projects as the construction of the biggest airport in the world were elaborated. And he is a human leader. He can touch people’s hearts. And I am sure that now when the presidential power is expanded there will be really positive changes taking place. It will get only better. Therefore when I went to vote, I had no doubt who to vote for».
After the elections Erdogan along with unlimited liability receives array of problems that he will have to solve himself. This includes huge economic problems that have put the country on the edge of default, the need to maintain a balance in relations between both Russia and the USA. And now everything depends on Erdogan, will he use his unlimited authority to the benefit of the country or he will only implement his ambitions.
«For now Turkey is paralyzed on standby mode. The economy is in a very bad condition. The country needs urgent changes, but what they will be, it is difficult to say», – summed up Fatih Gyotch.