As Britain and Europe are dogged by Brexit, the Turkish press continues to debate the outcome of Turkey’s mayoral elections, the economy and Russian missile systems but ultimately it’s all down to the elections.
“Spirit of Samsun”
Let’s begin on a positive note, Sözcü reported on a gathering of Turkish political party leaders in the north coast city of Samsun to celebrate the 100th anniversary of first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, leading Turkey to independence. All party leaders, with the exception of Good Party Leader, Meral Akşener, stood for a group photo with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Remarkably, this was the first photo with both Erdogan and main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu together since the failed coup attempt in 2016, noted Sözcü.
“YSK Decision Inconclusive on Voter Fraud”
Sözcü reported that Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) had published the 250-page full report it used to decide to revoke the opposition’s win in the Istanbul municipal elections. Controversially, it showed no definitive evidence backing claims by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of voter fraud. Seven of the 11 YSK board members voted to rerun the Istanbul mayoral race after the AKP challenged results based on allegations of voter fraud and some polling stations’ guides being unqualified.
Board members who abstained from voting said arguing about the eligibility of heads of polling stations is in no way sufficient to prove there was fraud.
“Opposition Blasts Decision on Istanbul Revote as Illegal, Flawed”
The row over the decision to rerun Istanbul’s mayoral election refuses to die down, reported Sözcü. Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), responded fiercely to the Supreme Electoral Council’s (YSK) decision to rerun the Istanbul local elections. “There is no legal basis for the decision. It has been extrapolated from hyperboles. In terms of democratic values and the rule of law this is a miserable decision," CHP President, Kemal Kilichdarağlu, said.
Also decrying the elections watchdog’s decision, CHP Secretary-General, Muharrem Erkek, stressed that details in the YSK full report failed to tie supervisors at polling stations to counts of voter fraud. The report admitted some of them were not permanent public workers but were pre-approved by election boards.
“Fear of Dissent”
Cumhuriyet reported that The Turkish Education Ministry had issued an administrative circular asking secondary schools to take necessary precautions to curb any anti-government protests or other forms of dissent, especially linked to the decision to hold a re-election for the mayor of Istanbul. The circular was issued after footage showing secondary school students raising banners with slogans ridiculing the Istanbul revote went viral on social media.
“CHP Candidate for Istanbul Mayor Vows to ‘Change the Status Quo’”
Cumhuriyet said the opposition candidate in Istanbul’s forthcoming mayoral elections, Ekrem İmamoğlu, had officially launched his campaign with the backing of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Good Party. Blasting corruption-riddled spending in the Istanbul municipality, Imamoglu said, “the squandering of resources at the municipality does not know justice and equality.”
He also noted that only a few areas in Istanbul are currently benefiting from municipality development projects. “So long this situation goes unchanged, the people of Istanbul will not be smiling,” he said, revealing development plans to improve the city’s water supply networks.
“After Stealing Votes, CHP Candidate Steals Projects”
Turkish far-right daily, Yeni Akit, implicitly accused the country’s opposition parties of poaching credit for development plans in the city, claiming that the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election has left the opposition candidate scrabbling for votes.
The Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, was accused of campaigning on growth initiatives that are allegedly the accomplishments of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Reduction of water rates by 46% and student transportation fees by 50% were claimed as the result of propositions made by AKP members in the Istanbul election board and not an initiative by Imamoglu.
“30 Bln Pumped into Election-driven Investments”
Yeniçağ reported that skyrocketing unemployment rates coupled with a growing trend towards bankruptcy of some Turkish companies has finally driven the government to announce an aid package with soft loans to manufacturers. The government has injected 30 billion Turkish lira into public banks to finance the purchase of machinery and raw materials with reduced interest loans and a two-year tax exemption period.
“S-400 Missile Systems Controversy Created to Mislead Elections”
Almost finally, the controversy of Turkey’s proposed purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system rumbles on. Russian political analysts interviewed by Yeni Akit emphasised that Turkey’s position on the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile systems, despite US warnings, remained unchanged and that ties between Ankara and Moscow are strong. They also dismissed claims of a delay as rumours, alleging they were designed to mislead voters and portray the government as weak ahead of the rerun of the Istanbul bye-elections.
“Arabs Do Not Want to Use the Turkish Language”
Cumhuriyet reported that the proposal by Turkish lawmakers to add the Turkish language to the list of official languages used in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). was met with opposition from Arab countries, according to Turkey’s OIC representative. Analysts believe that Turkey’s losses incurred by foreign policy setbacks, especially in failing in its agenda to emerge as a leader of the Muslim world, had inspired the proposal.