Ballot boxes have been on Erdoğan’s lips for years. He never tired of saying:
“The ballot box is the antidote to extrademocratic endeavours.”
“The ballot box is democracy’s honour.”
“What is democracy if not the ballot box?”
Because in these periods the support he obtained at the ballot box/in elections constituted the most important basis for liquidating/neutralizing the forces opposing Erdoğan.
Up until the 7 June 2015 elections which Erdoğan embarked on with presidential ambitions.
Never mind Erdoğan’s executive presidency, with the AKP losing its absolute majority, other plans were put in place to repeat the elections and enable the desired result to be procured from these elections. The prime minister at the time openly announced from the TV screens that the bombs which had gone off boosted the vote. Even if 1 November 2015 was won in this way, it still fell short of ushering in the presidential system.
All of a sudden, the coup attempt by the FETOitsts, who had shared power for years with the AKP-Erdoğan, came to the rescue. Erdoğan called it a “Gift of God.” The state of emergency was proclaimed, municipalities were seized through trustees and party co-chairs, members of parliament and politicians were detained. This was not enough, and the Euphrates Shield operation was launched, ostensibly against ISIS but actually against the Syrian Kurds. Bahçeli, whose ideas had come to power even if he hadn’t, aided Erdoğan, who was running a de facto single-man regime, in the matter of a referendum.
They initially tried to give the appearance of being “democratic” and said that an election/referendum under state of emergency conditions was not on. On inspection things were not in good shape and they said, “An election at its finest is to be held under state of emergency conditions.”
They then legalized the single-man regime following the most tainted election/referendum in the country’s history.
Following the referendum, it was the turn of elections. Erdoğan and Bahçeli gave the instruction. AKP and MHP staff exerted themselves for months to configure the election laws so that the alliance they would set up would win. And thus the “People’s Alliance” was formed. Against this backdrop came the holding of the 24 June 2018 elections in which all state institutions were headed by a party under a single-man’s command. Despite the degree of tainting involved in this election going off the scale, too, the main opposition candidate was nowhere to be seen. On top of this, the main opposition party went out of its way to quell the popular anger that swelled up in the face of this tainting.
And, so, this is how the 31 March local elections came upon us.
The election was named “local,” but the single man went round province by province, district by district, and spoke of “survival,” spoke of the “call to prayer,” spoke of the “flag” and, with this not sufficing, said “Get lost to Kurdistan.”
However, with the single-man encountering results that dashed his hopes, above all in Istanbul, the announcing of the election results and giving of certificates of election has turned into a circus tent with the Supreme Election Council as its impresario.
Having lost, they said a “fifteen thousand majority is insufficient.” They tried and are trying out unheard-of games to get the Istanbul elections annulled. They are now saying that illicit voter registrations were made in Büyükçekmece in this system in which all the strings are in their hands. When, in fact, all objections to the illicit records and shifting of voters done to ensure an AKP victory were dismissed one by one by the Supreme Election Council. But with the order coming from the single-man there is not a peep from the Supreme Election Council.
The same Supreme Election Council dismissed objections made in elections where the AKP won with a majority of three to five.
We spoke of the circus tent of which the Supreme Election Council is the impresario, but they saved the pièce de résistance until the end!
The Supreme Election Council will deny certificates of election to mayors who are expellees under decrees with the force of law, having had no objection to their candidacy in the election. How come? They cannot serve in public positions!
The Supreme Election Council is saying, “You can contest the election but cannot win.” It is clear that this resolution has no other meaning apart from ridiculing not just the winning decree-expellee mayors, but the will of the people who voted for them.
On hearing these resolutions, one cannot help thinking, “I wonder what other tricks there are in the single-man regime’s democracy circus?”
If even a few crumbs of democracy in this country are to be spoken of, the right to vote and be elected takes pride of place among these democratic rights. And the holding/ability to hold elections in a country does not mean on its own that the right to vote and be elected exists in that country. Elections are known to be held in many countries in the world that are run by dictators.
In terms of opposition to the single-man regime, it was put to the test once more, as I said at the outset, in the 31 March local elections. This regime cannot preserve itself without one by one eliminating the bourgeois democratic gains that had in any case remained pretty stunted in Turkey. So, if a conclusion is to be drawn from the elections, this is that the emerging picture makes the struggle for democracy against the single-man regime into a greater necessity.
In conclusion, those who have strutted around in public speaking of the ballot box have brought the country to a point at which voting is not enough and people must struggle to protect the votes they have cast.
(Transkated by Tim Drayton)