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Analysis: Were the Turkish election results rigged?

Turkish election observer Burak Ant Kilic and Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi discuss the Turkish election results and whether they were rigged. They also discussed how the Turkish election results will affect Israel.
Photo Credit: Channel 2

It has been announced that the ruling AKP Party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan won in the recent elections in Turkey but there were voices inside Turkey that indicated that the election was a sham and didn’t truly represent the wishes of the Turkish people.  As Burak Ant Kilic reported, “I was an observer and it hadn’t been ten minutes since we handed out ballots and the government run Anadolu News Agency declared that 70-80% of the votes were counted and the AKP was winning a majority with 50% of the votes.  Which votes did they count?   There are tons of posts on social media that they are getting Syrian refugees to vote and it adds up to a number of new votes that the AKP got in predominately Kurdish populated areas.”

However, because to date the YSK, the official Turkish government body that is supposed to supervise the election results, has cut off access to their website: “We have absolutely no means of challenging the results. From early numbers, there was a lot of information on social media drawing attention to the ‘fishy’ spikes in number of voters (around 10% in most places) in a lot of places compared to the elections on June 7 and somehow all these new votes seem to have gone to the AKP but then again, we have no way to officially verify this.”  

Kilic added that this situation with the YSK website is nevertheless very suspicious: ““You also can’t access the results from the last elections as well.  They are not even trying to hide it.  It is such blatant censorship.”   Kilac does not think that the AKP really got almost 50% of the vote: “I believe that AKP should be around 40-42% of the vote.”

Aside from this, a number of other irregularities were reported during the November 2015 Turkish elections.  According to Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi, “There are a lot of complaints that the voting bags changed and the computers were set by the AKP people.  .Also, there is a lot of claims that the AKP paid different fees in different zones to people who voted for the AKP or even paid important  sums to village rulers (Muktars) to push their community to vote for AKP.”  Multiple polling stations in Kurdish areas had power outages.    Additionally, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Eren Erdem was suspicious of the fact that the electricity was cut off for 1.5 hours in a polling station in Istanbul, a city with many left wing supporters.    

The Turkish government even utilized brute force in order to arrest Kurdish activists within the country.   For example, the HDP Provincial head of the Kirklareli Province was arrested due to the opposition of a party official existing at the polling station and he was not the only Kurdish activist to be arrested.  Additionally, fighting erupted between AKP and CHP supporters after an AKP official helped an elderly 80-year-old woman cast her vote.  The Police used tear gas in order to deal with the dispute.  Many routes to the polls were also cut off by the authorities. Aside from that, Kilic noted that there has been foul play by the ruling AKP party since the last elections: “AKP continued its scandals since June 7, which in any democratic country would’ve meant impeachment and/or jail time for the authorities; it was actually rewarded in these elections.”

 According to Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi, Erdogan took this move because he had no choice but to rule the country by himself: “He and his party members including his son committed a lot of legal crimes and if somebody else will rule the country, he and his party members would be in jail for years.”  These crimes include stealing money from the country’s safe, violating the Turkish Constitution by trying to change the secular order in the country and having religious classes in Turkish schools, imposing apartheid between the Sunni and Alevi communities, and discussing giving away part of Turkey’s lands to the Kurds, which is a criminal offense within the country.  

However, Kilic has a different idea regarding the motivation for all of this.   He believes that Erdogan is merely power hungry and just wants to be a Sultan.   “The political significance of this lies with Erdogan’s dreams of changing the constitution,” Kilic noted.  Erdogan seeks for Turkey to have a presidential system similar to Putin’s in Russia so that he can obtain massive power instead of having the president merely have a ceremonial position: “For that, he needed 400 MPs.   The AKP MKs repeated on many occasions this goal by saying, ‘Give us 400 and we will solve this peacefully.’”   Kilic emphasized that before the June elections, Erdogan violated the Turkish constitution by breaking the impartiality of the president by asking the people to vote for the AKP.  This led the HDP to adopt the slogan: “We will not make you President.”   According to Kilic, this helped the HDP win over 10% of the vote for the first time in their history.   However, immediately after the June 7 elections, Erdogan Consultant Burhan Kuzu tweeted: “I said stability or chaos; people chose chaos.”  

Immediately afterwards, Kilac noted that the ceasefire with the PKK ended and clashes erupted that resulted in the death of 109 Turkish soldiers as well as hundreds of PKK members in retaliation for killing two Police officers that were accused of assisting ISIS: “The suspicious part about this is the timing and the responses. First of all, PKK never admitted to killing these two police officers. They even made a statement that they had nothing to do with it and maybe it was done by some rogue groups outside of PKK. Second, there had been other minor clashes in the past years ending up with a small number of deaths, Army or PKK, and these incidents were always contained with politicians standing firmly behind the peace progress.  This snowballed into more retaliations from both sides and the deaths of hundreds of people. AKP kept its threats that all these events were happening because they failed to get a majority and last week, Prime Minister Davutoğlu even made references to the 'White Toros,' which was the killing and disappearance of Kurdish activists and intellectuals during the 1990s.”

“The bombing of the Ankara Peace Walk happened right in the middle of this environment and as the AKP promised, chaos and bloodshed was everywhere,” he noted.  “While any left-wing protest is traditionally escorted (and in the end assaulted) by security forces, somehow that day there were only a few cops around and the Turkish Intelligence failed to intercept a bombing in such a massive scale right in the middle of the capital city, resulting in the largest terror attack in the history of the Turkish Republic, killing about 100 people  This turned out to be a huge political success for the AKP - winning them votes from both parties they could steal votes from; HDP and MHP.”  

According to Kilic, HDP has two main sources for votes.   The first one is among ethnic Kurds: “What the international media doesn’t know is that while the Kurdish population in Turkey is left-wing, they have a serious number of extremely religious Muslims that have a demographic effect in the area.   The not so popular Hizbultahrir committed many ISIS style executions and other various terror acts in southeastern Turkey up to the late 1990’s, even early 2000’s and Hizbullah connected Hudapar still has some visible support in the area.   There has been a wave of violence between these two groups especially in the past few years.    While left wing Kurds have supported HDP, religious Kurds have sided with the AKP until June 7.  They probably again would have if it wasn’t for ISIS.   The obvious support of AKP for ISIS combined with the emotional siege of Kobane helped the anti-AKP sentiment peak among Kurdish voters.    The second source of HDP voters is left wing young Turks, who helped them pass the 10 percent threshold for the first time.”

“The second opposition party is the Turkish Nationalistic MHP, whose main ideology is Turkish-Islamic right wing conservatism,” Kilic explained.   “The third opposition party is the historically secular, democratic CHP that was founded by Ataturk, which has the secular Turkish votes. Out of all these groups, AKP can’t get a single vote from CHP. They’ve been around 25% for a long time and give or take a few points, they’ll remain there for a while.  They also can’t get the left-wing Kurdish or Turkish votes from HDP. That only leaves two main groups to manipulate, the MHP voters and the religious Kurds. This is where the bloodshed comes in.”

“Video footage of police forces using the speaker system in their cars yelling at people “you are all Armenians” to the protesters (AKP officials including Erdogan use Armenian and Greek as insults) and another video footage of police forces dragging the dead body of a young Kurdish militant through the streets were directed at the two main groups AKP was hoping the get the votes from,” Kilic explained.   “Mr Bahceli, refusing any kind of coordination with HDP, lost the country’s first real chance to normalize Turkey by using the 60% of the votes the opposition parties got at June 7, although he was offered the seat of Prime Minister by CHP who actually had more votes than them.  The HDP stated that if MHP wanted, they would remain outside the coalition, they did not demand any seats, and would support them from outside if they would sue Erdogan and other corrupt politicians and statesman. This made him look like a man without any real solution or even a will towards any solution, and he lost about 5% of his votes, dropping from 16% to 11%, almost being left outside the parliament because of the 10% threshold."

“It also had a strong effect on the moderate Kurds, who voted in escorted by the Police Special Forces and the military, who claimed to be there for “security,” he noted.  “With fears of returning to the dark 1980s and 1990s, they voted for AKP with the hope that the violence would stop. That led to the loss of about 3% of the HDP votes and transferred them to AKP.  In short, I don’t know if AKP rigged the elections but I know that they used the state’s power to build a campaign built on bloodshed and war, and that is just as bad as tampering the numbers. These people have proven themselves to be capable of anything just to remain in power.”

The question remains, how will this affect Israel?    According to Kilic, “As for the Israeli- Turkish relations, I don’t see it as too problematic, but that’s because I don’t believe that there is any real tension between the AKP and Israel. All AKP does as far as I can see is to make some hostile, populist remarks to please their base. They gather more votes but in action, Turkish-Israeli trade has tripled since 2009, the year before the Mavi Marmara incident, with almost a 50/50 import-export balance.  Erdogan is a cold pragmatist with ideological delusions, and he won’t do anything that would jeopardize Turkish relations with the US. As long as the United States remains an ally of Israel, I doubt that Erdogan will dare to do anything directly aimed at Israel, and the massive corruption claims indicate that he would prefer a large trade volume with Israel instead of deteriorating relations. Long story short, he is all talk and no walk when it comes to Israel.”

In conclusion, Rafael Sadi proclaimed: “Since Erdogan now is calmer then before the elections and strengthened his position thus deleting the danger of to be sued, now there is a possibility to renew relations with many countries like Israel and even Azerbaijan. The most important point is how Turkey will act regarding the Syrian trouble and what kind of orders/requests they will get from the USA and Russia. Turkey is not in a position to lead the region anymore as Erdogan the Sultan had imagined.  Putin is now the boss.   We will wait and see if the USA and Russia needs Turkey as a friend of Israel.”

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