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Turkey in a week – June 18th, 2018

While the snap elections are approaching very fast, last week concerns regarding the safety of the elections and the fairness of election campaigns have peaked in Turkey. While attacks on opposition party supporters, particularly the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) supporters, have already been reported from all around Turkey since election campaigns started, four were killed and nine were injured during election visits by a (AKP) MP İbrahim Halil Yıldız to a small shop in Suruç, a Kurdish majority town in southeast Turkey 10 days ahead of tightly-contested polls. Even if rival sides gave contrasting versions of events, the state-run Anadolu Agency and mainstream media were quick to describe the incident as an attack against the ruling AKP. The small shopkeeper Esvet Şenyaşar, his sons, Celal and Adil Şenyaşar and AKP MP İbrahim Halil Yıldız’s brother Mehmet Yıldız were died during the incident. As the incident added to tensions just two weeks before the June 24 elections, HDP’s presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş called for calmness and reason via a tweet (the only instrument he has been able to use for his election campaign to reach his supporters as he runs his campaign from the prison) and said “nothing is more important than a life”, whereas President Erdoğan and AKP figures blamed HDP for the violence. Last week a short video of President Erdoğan’s private meeting with his supporters leaked to the social media. According to this video, Erdoğan asks from his local party representatives to work very closely with voters in each district to prevent HDP to pass 10% threshold. Erdoğan is heard saying “Friends, our party organization must conduct very different work on the HDP. I can’t speak these words outside [publicly]. I am speaking them with you here. Why? Because if the HDP falls below the election threshold it would mean that we would be in a much better place.” Along with the leakage of this video in addition to the attacks to opposition parties and media blockages to opposition candidates, concerns regarding the fairness of the election campaigns has been peaked just 10 days before the elections. Moreover, the electoral fraud claims also have been remembered regarding the referendum held on 16 April 2017 adding further concerns and questions over the election process which is held under questionably long state of emergency.

The mainstream media, now largely controlled by pro-AKP capital groups, and the state media (TRT and Anadolu Agency) has been broadcasting largely ruling AKP and President Erdoğan’s election campaigns. Presidential candidate of CHP, Muharrem İnce complained that while his election rallies (77 of them when he made these remarks) have never been broadcasted fully, Erdoğan’s 16 rallies and whatever he has been doing have been broadcasted by TV channels. İnce is relatively the lucky one in terms of appearances on mainstream TV channels and the state TV TRT, as other opposition party candidates have been exclusively blocked. As HDP’s candidate Selahattin Demirtaş is running his campaign from the prison, the first in Turkey and the world’s history, Sunday evening he could make his official election speech on TRT. All party representatives and presidential candidates have two 10 minutes talk according to the election laws. Even if the Supreme Election Council declined last week Demirtaş’s demand to participate a discussion on one of the private news channels via telephone call from the prison, Demirtaş could use his right to 10 minutes speech on TRT on Sunday evening. During his speech which was shared on social media vastly, Demirtaş mentioned about his unjust imprisonment and unlawful judiciary process he has been exposed to and he asked people to vote to prevent the “one-man regime” that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been aiming to form. By citing HDP’s campaign slogan “Don’t forget, everything changes with you”, Demirtaş promised that the votes for him will help bring peace to the country.

The campaigns seem to be substantially biased in favour of the AKP and Erdoğan in terms of mentioned airtime and billboards. Opposition parties accuse AKP and President Erdoğan of unlawful usage of public means and services as well. Erdoğan’s İstanbul meeting on Sunday 17th also showed the massive usage of public transportation to carry AKP supporters to Yenikapı meeting venue.

The different political scenarios regarding the election results have been brought on. Hilal Köylü’s two pieces on HalaGazeteciyiz discusses these scenarios. In the first case scenario, which has been taken as the one with the highest possibility particularly due to İnce’s unexpected success, Erdoğan wins the presidency in the second round on 8th of July, but AKP loses the majority in the parliament. If this scenario occurs, proving Erdoğan’s power over voters but also a wish to prevent one-man ruling of him, Turkey may face a political crisis very resembling the one Turkey witnessed after June 7 elections in 2015. By reminding June 7 elections, Erdoğan rejects this scenario in a Bloomberg interview, arguing there is no room for a parliament opposing his presidency in the new presidential government system and the logic of the presidential government system only suggests to have a strong parliamentary majority supporting the president.

As the presidential government system will come into force after the elections of June 24th whoever wins the presidency, this scenario brings a political situation questioning the presidential system as all opposition party candidates promise the return to the parliamentary system. Opposition parties ran their election campaigns for the referendum deciding the presidential system in April 16th in 2017 arguing that with the new system the parliament will be weakened and the country will be run by the Palace. The elections for parliament and the presidency are held the same day to assure the parallel results without creating conflicting powers. Hence, if this scenario realizes, Turkey may face not just a political crisis but also a constitutional crisis.

Although the economy seems to have lost being the first headline in the news last week, Turkish Lira kept depreciating against Dollar and Euro after FED’s rise of interest rates. While Turkish Lira saw 4.75 against Dollar despite the rate hike from the Central Bank the week before, experts warn that the economy will see worse days after the elections.

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