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Post Local Elections of 30 March: a Referendum on Erdogan
Created by John Eipper on 03/29/14 10:30 AM

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Local Elections of 30 March: a Referendum on Erdogan (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 03/29/14 10:30 am)

Turkey is heading Sunday to a crucial vote, a local election that has turned into a referendum on the performance of the Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Thank God I am not a candidate, but still I have social responsibilities that go further than just being a journalist.  Presently I am heading the EU-funded "Press for Freedom" project of the Association of Journalists. Just to remind you, access to Twitter was banned and YouTube was shut down in Turkey. There are rumors that Facebook will be blocked off soon. Lists of journalists who will be "detained" after the polls are moving around, with no one denying the existence of such reports. Hope to be with you soon, free in a free country.

JE comments: I'm extremely grateful that Yusuf Kanli has checked in with his friends at WAIS, as I know this is a busy and stressful time in Ankara. Yusuf's final sentence left me perplexed, as I thought he might be planning to leave his homeland. When I asked him off-line for a clarification, he sent this reply:

"On the contrary, I am working hard to get rid of the chains, both personal and national. Erdoğan has become such a burden that even Gülenists have now aligned with secularists to get rid of him."

JE again: Best of luck to you, Yusuf. These are uncertain times. I know that you're staying optimistic. Please stay safe as well.

Is anyone curious how to say "sent from my iPhone" in Turkish? See below:

iPhone'umdan gönderildi

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  • Local Elections Today in Turkey; Journalism Under Fire (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey 03/30/14 4:00 AM)
    The following is an updated and enhanced version of an article I wrote for Monday's editions of the Hurriyet Daily News. Naturally I do not have an idea about the election result for now, though I strongly hope and expect it will be one contributing to Turkish democracy. If however as some pollsters predict, the ruling party gets over 46 percent, it might become even more difficult to maintain a voice critical of the government. Best to all from Turkey.



    "Conspiracy media" and the overloaded Turkish democracy

    Yusuf Kanli

    Turkey is voting Sunday in mayoral elections that turned into a referendum for the performance of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of the tall, bald, bold and ever-yelling Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

    The nation is polarized...

    A top advisor of the prime minister complained to the police that a journalist working for the "community media" was taking his photographs and recording his voice.

    The husband of the Rome representative of a newspaper of the "allegiant media" traveled to Pennsylvania, met with Fethullah Gülen, the spiritual head of the "Hizmet" (Service) community, for an interview. The woman reporter was immediately sacked by the "allegiant newspaper," forgetting the principle of "individuality of crime," even though a journalist conducting a newspaper interview with someone--at least so far--is not considered a crime even in this advanced democracy of regressed democratic values.

    Journalists working for the "community media" were asked to comply with new rules. What rules? No praise of the government, particularly of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some did not believe the ruling party or the premier deserved to be exempted from praise; some did not do any sort of journalism apart from bootlicking anyhow. Many of them were laid off over the past few months because of "discipline deficiency"... the real reason? Incompatibility with the "spirit" of the "community media."

    Scores of journalists working for either the "community" or the "allegiant" media were laid off over the past few months. Indeed, many people of the "mainstream media" lost their jobs as well, but there was a sharp difference between journalists sacked by the mainstream media and the rest. In the mainstream media the reason behind most sackings was austerity or administrative restructuring, to cope with worsening financial situation. Many smaller papers, for example, almost closed down their Ankara offices and instead of having an office now has a desk or two in the newsroom of the Ankara office of the "mother" newspaper. Why? Better use of resources! Why don't we have just one newspaper then? Or why don't we have a team of journalists writing for a pool, and newspapers and TV stations just select and use any material from that pool? Alas, this has become the routine of the Turkish media.

    Still, no one can say anything to a newspaper administration if it decides to sack some personnel or prefers to make better use of its personnel resource by merging its existing capacities, and establishing a joint editorial office for a variety of its publications. That is an "economic" undertaking. But is it possible to show the same understanding for undertakings by media bosses with political considerations? Was the backbone of our profession not the right to criticize? Were journalists not expected to be the critical eye of their societies? Was journalism not expected to be the fourth power of a working democracy--of course after the judiciary, executive and legislative branches--and serve as some sort of "auditor"?

    Was the advisor at a top secret meeting at the Foreign Ministry? Was he discussing a conspiracy with some other top security officials about how to legitimize a Turkish attack on a neighboring country? Why would a ban clamp down censure on that case, but the Turkish state remains spectator to advisors turning into vagabonds or newspaper editors turning into guardians of the neighborhood? How can a journalist be responsible for something her husband did, let alone how can an interview be something to be punished?

    The nation is polarized, peoples are polarized, the media is polarized. Can this a photograph of a sustainable state of affairs? Can this continue? Can all these be left behind with a balcony speech? Can Turks be fooled that the tall and bald man yelling at everyone turned into a benevolent leader embracing everyone, just because he used some nice words at his "fool everyone" speech from the balcony of his ruling party?

    Turkey badly needs to dump some of its load to avoid capsizing...

    JE comments:  The world awaits the election results in Turkey.  Meanwhile, journalism in that country is under dire threat.  Are these sackings for "economic considerations" merely a way to silence criticism?  It certainly looks that way.
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    • Turkish Elections of 30 March; Erdogan's Victory Speech (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey 04/01/14 4:24 AM)
      Even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan most probably would not expect such a grand electoral victory. Was he not saying that any vote above 38 percent (the 2009 local polls vote of AKP) would be a success? What were the reasons that pushed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to 45.6 percent at a time when it was expected to lose the elections? The espionage scandal and the premier talking at his last few rallies with a terrible voice, as if he had a frog in his throat, definitely pushed up the AKP votes a few percentage points. Still AKP getting so high a vote and winning in 49 provinces and hundreds of districts was a grand victory that must be applauded.

      Some people have started crying foul in the vote counting. Ankara was a good example, and indeed when this article was written, the electoral board was still examining petitions alleging rigging by incumbent mayor Melih Gökçek. Probably there was no rigging, as it is only normal to ask for a recount of votes if the difference between top two contenders of an election is less than half a percentage point, or just a few thousand votes.

      Before the vote, many people, including this writer, were of the opinion that irrespective of the outcome Erdoğan would be the loser of the election. Alas, we were all proved wrong. Not only did his party score an outstanding "victory" that earned Erdoğan praise from Vladimir Putin of Russia and Arab sheikhs of the Middle East, there has been a marked regression of the discontent with him and his policies at home. It is too early to reach a definitive answer of course, but perhaps once protestors gathered in front of the electoral office to voice their demand for a just recount of the Ankara vote, there might be the nucleus of a new "Gezi spirit." Many Turks started complaining that protesting started becoming less interesting, as with improved weather conditions, getting soaked by water cannons is becoming a luxurious form of refreshment. Furthermore, they were so liberally gassed all through the past months that they are addicted to it. Plus, can there be a better form of exercise than running from the police or plainclothes?

      Sarcasm apart, Turkey has indeed landed in an awkward situation with the March 29 polls. The man expected to lose badly came up surprisingly victorious. The main opposition party could not exceed 30 percent electoral support despite all those massive graft charges, ministerial resignations, and the battle between the government and its former coalition partner, the Fethullah Gülen Islamist fraternity. This result demonstrated the urgent need for overhauling the opposition parties and producing a credible alternative to the Islamists in government. There ought to be something seriously wrong in the opposition parties. Yet, leaders of both these parties were so thick-skinned to declare their humiliating defeat as a victory.

      This country deserves better opposition parties. Is it not sickening to see a premier yelling and cursing at everyone, rampant graft claims, allegations that top security officials are plotting to push Turkey into a war, and yet he still sees outstanding success at the polls? This result clearly shows that Turkey badly needs opposition parties brave enough to abandon rhetoric and empty slogans and instead come up with policy suggestions.

      The continued failure of the opposition parties in becoming the voice of the masses discontent with the government might eventually produce a conviction to voice their discontent themselves. Such a situation might land Turkey in unprecedented unrest and show Erdoğan and his political clan how cute indeed were the Gezi incidents of last June.

      The repeated arrogance of the Premier's "balcony speech" on the other hand, showed how little hope we have for normalcy anytime soon. See below.


      Erdoğan's balcony speech: "We'll walk into their dens"

      Flanked by his wife and children, including his junior son allegedly involved in a one-billion-dollar graft scheme, as well as ministers who lost their seats because of massive corruption claims, an arrogant and victorious Erdoğan declared from the balcony of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in Ankara on the night of March 30 that he will not let supporters of Fethullah Gülen escape the country. This is the text of Erdoğan's "victory speech":

      I wholeheartedly greet our 81 provinces as well as sister and friendly capitals and cities of the world from Ankara, from the AK Party headquarters. I've just addressed via teleconference thousands of people who gathered in Skopje Square [in Macedonia]. They were sharing the joy you have here in freezing weather. I first want to express my absolute gratitude to my God for such a victory and a meaningful result.

      I thank my friends and brothers all over the world who prayed for our victory. I thank my brothers in Palestine who saw our victory as their victory. I thank my brothers in Egypt who are struggling for democracy and who understand our struggle very well. I thank my brothers in the Balkans, in Bosnia, in Macedonia, in Kosovo and in all cities in Europe who celebrate our victory with the same joy we have here. I thank my suffering brothers in Syria who pray for our victory although in a great pain, facing starvation and under bombs and bullets. I express the gratitude of my people to all our brothers and friends who gave a support to Turkey's independence struggle just like before the Independence War of Turkey. Of course, this precious people deserve the greatest appreciation.

      My brothers; I thank you very much because you have protected the new Turkey's struggle for independence. I thank each of you because you have protected the ideal of a great Turkey and the targets of a great Turkey. You have supported your prime minister, your party, the politics, your own future with your own will.

      Well, today is March 30. What did they say? They said "Chaos after March 25." Correct. We saw the chaos. What was this chaos? This country found the opportunity to see the traitors who eavesdropped on the Foreign Ministry and committed treachery by interfering in the national security of this state and people. That was their chaos plan. I've been saying for months that "We'll walk into their dens."

      Now, from time to time, journalists ask me whether I will make a balcony speech this year. OK, first, what are you expecting out of a balcony speech? Second, why don't you ask the same to the leaders of the opposition parties? But they [opposition leaders] have no such target. They will keep silent but will claim their win. Regardless of whether he receives 26, 27 or 28 percent, the general directorate [CHP leader] will say he won the elections. The other [MHP] will claim his win although he gets 13, 14 or 15 percent. Why? Because they have spent their lives this way. But what did your brother say? "I'll quit party leadership if we cannot be the first party." Politics requires honor. Politics requires nobility. If you cannot enrich your positions, quit. This general directorate [CHP leader] once said he would quit politics if he remains below 40 percent. He got 26, did he go? No. He won't go this time either. The other one has occupied this seat for the last 16 or 17 years. Will he go? No.

      The message our precious people gave is very clear. The people gave a clear message to Turkey and to the world: What did they say? They said "We are here." They said, "The Turkish people are impassable." "We are the owners of this country. The people will not bow and Turkey is invincible."

      Those who managed could flee. More can flee tomorrow. I have filed criminal complaints about some of them; I said they can also flee. As I have said, from now on, we'll walk into their dens. They will pay for this. How can you threaten our national security? Syria is in a state of war with us. They are harassing our planes. They have martyred our 74 brothers and the Süleyman Şah Tomb is our lands [A piece of land in Syria hosting the mausoleum of Süleyman Şah that belongs to Turkey under an agreement between Turkey and the former colonial power France]. An attack against there is an attack against 780,000 square kilometers. Can we remain silent about such a thing? But these traitors wiretapped this meeting and leaked it to the world.

      They are worse than Assassins [of the Middle Ages who are also known as the "Fedayeen of Alamut"]. They are beyond them. My brothers; there is a very important message conveyed by our people through the polls. Our people have made their objection and their stance against attempts to change the direction of Turkey through non-political ways.

      Election results show who lost, more than they show who won. Please listen to these words carefully: Today, unethical politics has lost. Tape politics, montage politics, slander and denigration politics has lost. Politics without building something, politics without plans and projects, without goals, has lost. O, General Manager [referring to the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu], o, so-called party chair! What would you speak of during your election campaign if you didn't have those tapes? We spoke of plans, projects. They spoke of lies, dissimulation, slander, sedition and intrigue. The status quo has taken a huge blow today. Dirty relations and unnamed alliances have lost today. Every kind of tutelage and to all kinds of tutelage-dictating centers has been hit with a full Ottoman slap by the nation. Arrogance has lost today. Pride has lost today. The arrogance that looks down on its nation, belittling it and making light of its choices has lost in the ballot box once again.

      You know those people who used that blood-dripping, anger-inducing, hate-mongering headlines... Today, they have lost heavily again. O, Pennsylvania [referring to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen], o, the media who support them from here, o, the capital that supported them... Weren't you positioned against democracy? Democracy has won at the ballot box today. The will has won at the ballot box. What happened to the messages that you gave with an expectation of a coup in Turkey in 2014 in the 21st century? Look at this, the nation is here. The people are here. Those who'd love to plot a route for Turkey through extra-political interventions have lost today at the ballot box. Where are you now?

      The politics of lies, slander, blackmail and montage has been destroyed today. The solution method of all problems in Turkey is politics and democracy unquestionably. Whatever problem one has, politics should be used for the solution. Whatever problem one has, it should be solved at the ballot box.

      As the AK Party, we will analyze the election results, as we have done in all other elections. [Analyzing the reasons] why we got 46-47-48 [percent of votes all over Turkey] and we could not increase this [rate] to 55 or 60 [percent]. We will sit and discuss this now. And after discussing these and coming up with results we will continue on our path after working on our flaws. But is the opposition occupied with such an issue? No. They have always been caught unprepared in the elections. We will wholeheartedly evaluate the feelings of people who have voted for us and my citizens who have not voted for us. The opposition should read the message people have given in the ballot in the correct way. The opposition should do healthy self-criticism.

      Do you know what made me hurt? I put aside what has been done against me after what has been done at the Foreign Ministry. Have you heard of any statement from this opposition?

      Did you hear them saying "This is treason, this is espionage, we are taking sides with the government against this." Can those who take sides with Pennsylvania say these? This was what they said whey said there will be chaos after [March] 25. They said the economy would collapse; did it? We will get stronger in the economy, in politics and in democracy.

      Come on, let's turn over a new page. O, the opposition, o, the people who have given their hearts to the opposition. Turkey's interests must be over everything else. We said we are ready to lose if Turkey would win. The mentality that the AK Party should lose regardless of what consequences it will have for Turkey must be a thing of the past. The principles, values must be the fundamentals of the politics. Let's raise Turkey together. Those who are used by Turkey's enemies as pawns were disappointed today. These pawns once again saw how glorious, how noble, how heroic these people are.

      We have come [to power] to serve the people, not to be a master over them. We are only the porters of a big stone on the path. We were not here yesterday, but this path will continue. As long as the world stands, God willing, our flag will continue to wave in the highest bastions forever. For this, what have we said? We have said one nation with Turks, Kurds, Laz, Caucasians, Abkhazians, Bosniaks and Roma people. I do not love a Turk for being a Turk, a Kurd for being a Kurd, or a Laz for being a Laz. I love them because Allah who has created me has created the 77 million people. We do not discriminate. One group is making political Kurdishness, one group is making political Turkishness. The CHP says "I am a party of the coasts." One nation, one country, one flag, one state.

      They have entered our institutions over in 35-40 years. They infiltrated wherever. We became the victim of our good intentions. Now it is time to comb them out, within the law. Why? Because from now on, neither the nation nor we will show tolerance to such networks. Look, thank God, we have been granted the proud and honor of being at the forefront of this path. Maybe tomorrow we will not be in these posts. We have tried to glorify whatever task my God has given us. After now, as long as this body has this life, God willing, we will try to loyally adopt whatever tasks are bestowed onto us. If God pleases, we will put in an effort to laud our flag and our land as the servants of this country and nation until our last breath. We are highly relieved. We feel the pride of carrying the great Turkish flag, which we took over from our predecessors, to high bastions.

      We are at joy to have strengthened politics. We have no doubt that the great AK Party family will behave with this consciousness. Today, nobody should be sad or sorry. The 77 million people should know that Turkey won today. Every single individual in the 77 million people should know that the new Turkey won today. This is the wedding day of the new Turkey.

      Today, the targets of 2023 won, the resolution process won, the process of national unity and fraternity won. Not even one person among the 77 million lost, because a cadre that is ready to serve them without any discrimination is in office. They may think differently; they may have voted for different political parties; they may have cursed us. They may have insulted us. We have stomached most of them; we have taken many of them to court. The worthless opposition, the status quo, coup attempts and tutelage have lost. Immoral and indecent politics have lost. I am thanking once more my nation. I am thanking those grandmothers who have prayed non-stop for months, even children. I am thanking young people, my sisters and the gentlemen.

      I am thanking my brothers who have trusted us and who have believed in us. I am thanking those who have prayed for Turkey, for Turkey's stability everywhere in the world. I am thanking my organization, from my headquarters to provincial organizations, district organizations, small town organizations and polling-station observers. I am thanking one by one our women's branches, our youth branches, all of them one by one. I wish all the success to the elected mayors, city council members, metropolitan council members, village and neighborhood heads. I wish from God that these elections bring goodness to Turkey. May God protect my country, my nation.

      The nation is invincible. I say happy victory; let our victory be blessed. I salute all of you from my heart and I am asking, "Are we ready?"

      We walked together on these roads. We got wet together under the pouring rain. In all the songs I am listening to now, everything reminds me of you. Everything reminds me of Turkey.

      JE comments:  This is not an April Fools' post, but a fiery and frightening piece of political oratory.  Note the not-so-veiled threats everywhere, a "we will ferret you out" attitude towards the defeated parties.  Note too Erdogan's use of "Pennsylvania" as a synecdoche for Fethullah Gülen and the opposition.  The Keystone State, which hasn't practiced sedition since the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791, must be surprised to take on such a charged meaning.

      Erdogan's central point is not so much that his party won, but that his opponents lost.  This rhetorical approach would be unacceptable in most countries.

      An most informative update from Yusuf Kanli.

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      • Turkish Elections of 30 March; Personal Update (Utkan Demirci, USA 04/01/14 1:11 PM)
        I have an update for my WAIS colleagues, as I have moved back to Stanford School of Medicine as an Associate Professor with tenure starting April 1st. No, this is not an April Fools' day joke.

        In response to Yusuf Kanli's comments of 1 April, I would like to add that I think the rational rules of technology development for once also seem to apply to politics in Turkey. The only logical way to beat an existing technology is to bring in a disruptive and creative new technology that is a strong alternative that the end-users can benefit from. Bad-mouthing an existing technology and emphasizing its handicaps do not go very far, as long as there is not a winning plausible and strong alternative.

        What Turkey needs is not much different, but a fresh new breath that is creative, innovative, disruptive in a positive way and changes the rules of the game and for once in its history promises the Turkish public a future based on three pillars of equality, justice and freedom at a scale which this beautiful country has not even tasted a glimpse of, since the day it has been founded.

        JE comments: First, my heartiest congratulations to Utkan Demirci on the new appointment!  Best wishes and best of luck.  I hope we'll have the chance to meet the next time I'm at Stanford.

        I'm a lightweight on the subject of Turkish politics, but couldn't we say there have been two moments of "disruptive technologies" since 1900:  first, Ataturk's secularism, and second, Erdogan's "moderate Islamism"?  What, I wonder, would the next wave look like?  Apparently the opposition parties, at this point, have no idea.

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