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June 24: Erdoğan and his rivals

There are only 24 days until the June 24 elections. Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held together. A motley crew of colorful figures appears before the voters with yet another motley of ambitious pledges in these elections.

The media cannot allocate equal coverage to election campaigns conducted under the state of emergency conditions. We will look at the prominent parties and their pledges in the presidential campaign in this article…

Hilal Köylü

There are only a handful of days until June 24 when presidential and parliamentary elections will be held concurrently. To what degree each presidential candidate against President Tayyip Erdoğan will be successful will give us significant clues about the future of politics in Turkey. Therefore, each candidate does not confine himself/herself to criticize President Erdoğan with classical indicators this time. Each and all of them appear before the voters with a motley of ambitious messages and pledges although not all have the equal chance to secure themselves coverage in the media… Let’s now look at Erdoğan’s rivals and their pledges to the society; we will, of course, talk about Erdoğan and his party AKP in this review.


She was the first to confront Erdoğan: Meral Akşener.

İyi Party’s presidential candidate Meral Akşener has been the first one to announce that she would run against Erdoğan on June 24. Akşener, who has stated that there was no level playing field in the elections, remarks about the fact that HDP’s presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş is now conducting his campaign from the prison is a “contraction of Turkey.”

Akşener, who thinks that a second ballot will be held for the presidential elections, is so ambitious that she declares in the arenas: “We will send Erdoğan to his home in the second tour”. Akşener defines herself as the “only woman who has survived for the last 24 years in active politics” and is very sensitive about ballot box security. Meral Akşener is engaged in a close cooperation with “Oy ve Ötesi” (Vote and Beyond), an organization that specifically works in this area and made a name for itself in the 2015 referendum. She also has intensive contact with other parties. Akşener addresses her voters: “We very well know where the votes might get rigged, which places will be intervened into. That’s why we guarantee ballot box security about voting and counting the votes.”

Akşener has left behind the arguments about whether she could receive votes from Kurdish voters. “The claim that the Kurds will not vote for me in the second ballot of the presidential election is a total urban legend” says Akşener underlining the fact that there has been no reluctance to shake her hand in the South Eastern cities she has visited. Although Akşener has won the hearts of voters by her statements referring to the fact that Selahattin Demirtaş was not a convict but a suspect, therefore, should be freed to run his campaign, she cannot offer clear messages about education in Kurdish. “People should learn their mother tongues but I don’t approve of the fact that the state has two, three languages simultaneously” says Akşener but cannot speak frankly about whether education in Kurdish is a legitimate right or not. Akşener says she will work for establishing open relations with the whole world, notably with the US, Russia, the EU, and the Middle East, when she becomes the president and also harshly criticizes the AKP government regarding 4 million Syrians living in Turkey. Akşener gets her message across to the whole world by saying “Those who dragged Syria into conditions of war should reevaluate the situation” and adds: “We don’t have an approach like toss them away. We are not the enemies of refugees. We demand a set of principles based on clarity, transparency, and honesty.” Akşener’s biggest goal is to end polarization in Turkey. According to her, Turkey has been placed in an artificial polarization along the “modern-traditional” or “secular-religious” lines. “Turkey is essentially polarized between those who are favored because they are partisans and those who try to earn their keep by their labor” says Akşener claiming that the AKP government has downgraded the economy by the heavy tax burden, corruption, and bribery allegations. Akşener pledges that she will materialize projects that will activate the spirit of entrepreneurship in women and youth.


Saadet’s Vision of Turkey: All embrace all

Saadet Party’s Leader Temel Karamollaoğlu turned down AKP’s offers to form an alliance and announced his candidacy for presidency by saying “I won’t cooperate with liars.” According to Karamollaoğlu, the state television TRT and the state news agency Anatolian Agency have laid an embargo on Saadet Party since his announcement. Therefore, Karamollaoğlu has focused on social media and initiated digital rallies. Karamollaoğlu is so intent on meeting voters that he says “We will visit the whole country; we will be everywhere, from Twitter to YouTube” while announcing his election manifesto that he calls the “Vision of Turkey.” Saadet Party acquired an impressive rate of followers in all social media platforms with the hash tag “Change It” (Değiştir).

Temel Karamollaoğlu, who has earned a great deal of sympathy by saying education in Kurdish was a legitimate right, explained that he would solve the Kurdish problem through an understanding that called for “all-out-reforms.” Karamollaoğlu thinks that the Turks and Kurds are equals, colors that coexist in the same lands and refers to the concept of “equal citizenship” by saying “All people are born equal regarding rights and dignity” stating they will work for the solution of the Kurdish problem along these lines. Karamollaoğlu claims that Turkey has been polarized, voices of opposition have been silenced, justice has gone bankrupt, education has become a scratch pad during AKP’s 16 years in power pledging to the voters that “We will repeal the state of emergency.” Karamollaoğlu expresses his resolution to bring peace to Turkey with these words: “There will be no one left that we have not embraced. We are for the separation of powers and are defenders of the parliamentary system.” He pledges that they will abolish the Council of Higher Education, will not collect taxes from minimum wage earners, will provide 2 to 3 years of maternity leave for women, will establish 25 years of service for women and 35 years for men would be adequate enough to be eligible for retirement. Karamollaoğlu offers “privileged partnership” with the EU, in other words, he gives the green light to commerce and investments with the EU but does not propound that a partnership is necessary. Karamollaoğlu advocates that the D-8, which refers to the partnership of Muslim countries, will be more beneficial for Turkey.


HDP: Differences are our wealth.

There is a presidential candidate who runs his campaign from the prison against President Erdoğan: the former co-chairperson of HDP Selahattin Demirtaş who has been imprisoned for a year and a half. Demirtaş receives a great deal of attention from the public through his Twitter posts from the prison. Demirtaş has stated in his message from the prison on the day his party’s election bulletin was announced: “As a presidential candidate I am coming to put an end the one man rule. I will claim this position with a sack of powers and leave it solely with a coat on.” Demirtaş who pledges to create a country where there is no polarization has announced that the first thing he would do when he got elected would be to deauthorize himself. To revoke the state of emergency is among Demirtaş’s goals as well. HDP also wants to have a parliamentary system just like Saadet and İyi Party. Demirtaş states that they will prepare a democratic constitution in two years adding “The constitution will be grounded on local democracy and decentralization not on centralization. We will put an end to violence and conflict by a dignified peace.”

Making water, electricity, and natural gas free of charge for the poor up to the necessity limit, raising minimum wage to 3,000 liras, assigning a minimum of 1,000 liras to all the unemployed, writing off the interests of bank loans up to 50,000 liras and restructuring such loans, doubling subsidies in agriculture and husbandry, making the use of highways and bridges free of charge are also among the election pledges of HDP. HDP invites those “who feel left out, alone, and under pressure” and stands out with its message “Differences will be our wealth.”



The main opposition party CHP also has a strong candidate against President Tayyip Erdoğan: Muharrem İnce. İnce, in his endeavor to repair the rot in economy, states that he will prioritize the palace President Erdoğan built for himself and transform the palace into a house of science adding that he will fight corruption and bribery, and will strengthen the judicial system in Turkey. Erdoğan has not responded in the affirmative to İnce’s calls to have a debate on the television but İnce spends intensive working hours with all media outlets in order to enrich the platform for debate. “I’ll be an ordinary president. I, too, can stand trial. I’ll be everyone’s president” says Muharrem İnce and has outscored his rivals by visiting HDP’s candidate Selahattin Demirtaş in prison.


Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has announced CHP’s election bulletin. Kılıçdaroğlu firstly listed his party’s “economic” pledges saying “We will extend zero-interest loans to SMEs for a year as much as the taxes and insurance premiums they have paid before. We will extend zero-interest loans to farmers; write off their debts. We will found a Ministry of Shopkeepers to deal with the problems of tradespeople. We will be the ones who set hazelnut prices.” Talking about “education,” Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged: “We will appoint 180 thousand teachers. We will offer one-month-salary worth of premiums on the Teachers’ Day. We will annul the difference between tenured and contracted teachers and put an end to the practice of combined classes.” While Kılıçdaroğlu has stated that the platform to solve the Kurdish problem was the parliament and they would solve it in 4 years, he announced that they would declare Newroz Festival an official holiday. “We will found ßOrganization for Peace and Cooperation in the Middle East. Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria will come together. We will make peace with all our neighbors. There will be no visa requirements for Palestinians” said Kılıçdaroğlu, adding that they would revoke the state of emergency and abolish the Council of Higher Education. Kılıçdaroğlu also said that they would found Ministry of Women for equality between women and men; pledged that the lowest pension would be 1,500 liras and promised: “We will make minimum wage 2,200 liras net and will not take taxes.”


When the 360-page long AKP election bulletin was announced, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came under fire from critics asking “You have been in power for 16 years, why haven’t you done these?” Erdoğan, who made pledges virtually like the leader of an opposition party in his bulletin underlining “Powerful democracy, powerful economy,” has promised to fight repression and repressive mindsets. Erdoğan, who has claimed that they put the state of emergency into effect within the scope of fighting the coup d’état and terrorism but did not show his true colors as to when it will be revoked, has also announced that “he would extend legal status to the ‘cemevi’s” as if they have not been ignoring calls by Alevi organizations. Erdoğan said he would bring peace to all the streets by expanding the practice of employing neighborhood and district guards, would initiate a quality campaign in education, would open a library every where with more than 5 thousand residents, would popularize family medicine practices, and would invest in younger generations more pledging that he would raise labor force participation rate of women to over 40%.

Disputes as to whether Erdoğan, who claimed that the economic dire straits Turkey was going through was temporary and the inflation rate would fall, can take the economy out of the woods are becoming more and more heated day by day. Erdoğan’s pledges about the space and science are also on the public’s agenda. Erdoğan propounded that Turkey would take on initiatives in domestic automobile, cosmodrome, and digitalization but messages that Erdoğan “has been covering up the real agenda” are becoming more prevalent. Erdoğan, who has shown EU membership as a “strategic goal” and mentioned overcoming problems with the US, has also announced that they would reestablish neighborly relations with Syria.

And there are only 24 days left for the elections…

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