Africa indigenous knowledge upholds: “Entasima ekaly’omutima gw’emanzi” – literally meaning the ungrateful ate the hero’s heart. This is exactly how I felt when, in the dying moments to the consequential Turkish presidential and parliamentary polls of the post-Ottoman century, I learned of the Supreme Election Council (YSK) President Ahmet Yener rejecting a request for establishing a parallel poll reporting system and Homeland Party leader Muharrem Ince withdrawing from the presidential race “for the sake of the country and the people.”
Lest I eat the hero’s heart, I say “well-done Yener” and give “thanks to Ince” for their respective bold and timely decisions and actions. Why do Yener and Ince deserve a special mention, whatever the polls results will be?
It all started with a Teneo political risk consultancy firm warning that Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had established a tally infrastructure to monitor the elections. Target? This was in an effort to delegitimize opposition’s victory.
Within the circumstances of Turkish affairs under which the majority, if not all, of government and state institutions top executives are appointed by and have to be loyal to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party, one could have expected this was a gone case. After all, the Council itself could have been taken for setting precedence when it endorsed the controversial candidacy of Erdogan to run for another term.
It was with deep appreciation to hear the bold words coming from the Council President Ahmet Yener that YSK has ruled that the Interior Ministry Security and Emergency Coordination Centre (CAMER), tracking system has no role in the election process and cannot receive or collect information related to the exercise.
YSK is Turkey’s highest electoral authority. First established in 1950, it gained constitutional authority in 1961 and its mandate has been to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld. On top of that, its ruling is final. No appeal options from or by whatever other organ.
In these circumstances, the YSK ruling meant the end of an “election module” being created within the GAMER system to transmit ballot information and voter numbers. This would have translated into a direct political interference in the operations of the Council and the state-run Anadolu news agency. The end result would (not could) be to affect the fairness and transparency of the elections as well as the announcement of results. In respect of the May 14 polls, Anadolu has already told “clients” that they can file complaints with prosecutors’ offices if it halts election data flow. Time will tell.
The Interior Ministry request, to say the least, was in actual fact a ploy. Minister Soylu had already declared the polls as a “political coup” plot. His premise was as follows: That “July 15, 2016 was their de facto coup attempt. May 14 is “their potential coup and it’s that unambiguous (that) May 14, 2023 is the West’s potential coup attempt. It is a coup attempt that can be carried out by bringing together all preparations to demolish Turkey on May 14…”
His request to thr YSK, therefore, must have had an ultra motive. Why? His words created a sense of urgency and insecurity among the electorate while making room for a contingency plan in the event of polls not turning out positive to the government in power. In the Erdogan ruling style, this also opened the gate for a state of emergency on the pretext of “safeguarding the ballot boxes.” The question here becomes “against whom”?
It is something that created a fertile ground for making it easy to make (Incite?) the voters take to the streets. And chaos would have stepped in; the like, shape and character of the Bosporus Bridge incident — the aftermath of which still haunts Turkey today.
The deputy chairman for legal and election affairs of the opposition CHP, Muharrem Erked, was thus right when he shared the YSK decision and went on to warn that those who give illegal orders and those who execute them would be held accountable. Along this line, one hopes that this time around, the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) has not again (ab)used its mandate to threaten internet service providers with fines in the event of failing to forward internet users’ traffic data because this violates people’s privacy.
As far as Homeland Party leader Muharrem Ince is concerned, I had pleaded with him already in my previous article about the polls tensile strength of Erdogan to, at least this time, be nice to his country and people. I argued that he could not be on the side of Turkey and its people by standing against the opposition’s unity candidate Kemal Kilictaroglu in the election contest. I said the sum total of his move was to reduce the ballot numbers of Kilictaroglu because no supporter of Erdogan would vote for him.
I reminded him of his earlier promises that he would never stand as a candidate against Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Now, here he was, doing exactly the opposite to his ‘homeland’ that is already in deep social, economic, governance and human rights troubles. Therefore, the step he took to withdraw his candidacy, however late, will have an effect on the final count of the opposition ballot papers and their relation to those of Erdogan. Other things remaining equal, history will now record him differently with or without Erdogan at the control of power reigns.
Going to polls is one thing and safeguarding the ballot boxes and the counting of votes is another. While the process remains essentially in the hands of the YSK as per Turkey Constitution, the opposition must be vigilant. On the ground, supporters of the opposition must heed their presidential candidate’s call to stay inside on the poll night to avoid possible provocations.
May the Almighty, Omniscient, All-Merciful, -All-Provider and All-Wise God bless the May 14, 2023 very critical polls for Turkey, its people and a wide range of regional and global interests – the Middle East and North Africa, in particular. Amen.
Turkish Elections: Well-done Ahmet Yener; thanks, Muherrem Ince