Friday, April 5, 2019

Did Turkey's Erdogan Lose Ankara and His Base of Istanbul? Maybe, but He Can't Let the CHP Opposition Party Take Control of Istanbul and Ankara

The Results from this week’s election in Turkey Show the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) Party flipping AKP strongholds Ankara and Istanbul, giving the opposition the three largest cities in Turkey. The third, Izmit, has long been held by the opposition. Ekrem Imamoglu, the CHP candidate, is reported to have carried Istanbul by roughly 22,000 votes out of 9 million cast. Mansur Yacas, the CHP candidate, carried Ankara by a roughly 4% margin with 50.9% of the vote compared to 47% for President Erdogan’s handpicked candidate, Mehmet Ozhaseki. Istanbul has been under AKP control since 2002. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a “strongman,” somewhere short of a complete dictator. He has purged the military, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, and institutions of education, both public and private. The former President of the Supreme Judicial Council of Turkey was imprisoned. Erdogan has won every election from Mayor of Istanbul to Prime Minister and President of Turkey. He has amassed power in the Presidency. He has imprisoned Kurdish politicians. Over 700 Kurdish politicians and party members have been arrested since campaigning began in January. He accused his opponents of terrorism. He controls the media, shuttering newspaper, magazines, radio and TV stations. Hundreds of journalists have been arrested and some killed. Scores of newspapers, magazines, TV and Radio stations have been closed. Only media friendly to the Government remain, shutting off access to the opposition, except for a few hours. Hundreds of journalists have been imprisoned. I used to daily read Today’s Zaman on the internet. The government shut Today’s Zaman down on March 4, 2016 and destroyed its archives. The government has blocked over 100,000 websites, including Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube. Even China has been unable to totally block social media. It’s not easy to hide the truth in today’s world. President Erdogan built his success on a combination of a strong belief in Islam and economic prosperity. The economy was booming for ten years until his egocentric responses after the failed coup. The Turkish people are paying for his vengeance. The once booming Turkish economy is in a free fall. The Turkish Lira plunger 30% against the dollar last year. Unemployment is 10% with 30% among the young. Production dropped 4% last year. The tourist industry is hemorrhaging. The people know, see, and feel the pain. The Kurds, comprising 15% of population, will vote overwhelmingly for the opposition. So too will the families of the tens of thousands of Turks arrested after the failed coup and the over 160,000 ousted from their public and private jobs. The opposition also ran a well-conceived campaign. Up to three opposition parties challenged the AKP in past elections, splitting the anti-AKP vote. Not this time. The Kurds decided not to run any candidates this election cycle in Ankara or Istanbul, concentrating on their strength in southeast Turkey. The two remaining opposition parties united on a single candidate. They were also well-organized at a grass roots level. They knew the AKP has stuffed the ballot box in the past. They at poll watchers at each polling station President Erdogan is a vindictive, sore loser. More than that, he cannot personally afford to have the two largest cities fall into opposition hands. Ekrem Imamoglu pledged an audit of Istanbul’s budget. Any decent audit should uncover a trail of corruption. President Erdogan is corrupt. We know that from a 2014 leaked tape with him and his son. The police officers that exposed the corruption were sentenced to life imprisonment. We also know that corruption is a rag on a country’s rconomy. Loss of Ankara and Istanbul will result in the loss of patronage in those cities. The combined municipal budget of the two cities is roughly $5.79 billion (U.S. dollars). President Campaigned extensively for his party, making it a referendum on himself. The people rejected him – a blow to his ego. The next step is a recount, and then a recount of the recount, and a recount of the recount of the recount, until it comes out the desired way. Minnesota did that in the 2008 Senate race, ultimately giving Al Franken a 312 vote victory. Binali Yildirim of the AKP said there are 31,136 ballot boxes in Istanbul. All he needed was one additional vote from each ballot box. Ekrem held onto a 18,742 vote lead after a recount in 17 of Istanbul’s 39 districts. The AKP has now demanded the Istanbul votes be annulled. Hence they could start over. The government party is also contesting 319,570 ballots in Ankara. The AKP protests are ironic. It has a history of ballot stuffing. The 2017 election, which gave the President; i.e. Recep Erdogan, extraordinary powers, was accompanied by both ballot stuffing and ballot suppression with police actually watching voters casting their ballots with cautions against voting No. 960 ballot boxes contained only Yes votes. One estimate was that up to 2½ ballots may have been fraudulent. The President barely won the election 51.4% -48.6%. The 2018 election was characterized by widespread voting “irregularities” favoring the President. President Erdogan said two days ago “Everything is still ongoing.” President Erdogan ominously now said that now the elections process was over, it was time for the judicial process. Remember, he purged the judiciary; it is now of his creation. If the AKP cannot reverse the election results, watch the President do to the new city officials what he did to Kurdish cities: dissolve the government and imprison the leaders for treason. His government seized over 100 Kurdish municipalities in 2014 and jailed 60 Kurdish mayors in 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot afford to lose Ankara and especially Istanbul.

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