Turkish Election. We breathe.

June 8, 2015


Today I realize the extent of the amount of tension that was in the air in regards to this Turkish election. The ruling party, the AKP, and more exactly, its leader, the actual president Erdogan had been using a poisoned and iron fist repeatedly on all who dared raising their voices or simply, existing. None has been safe; doctors, journalists, lawyers, even a kid of 16 had been sentenced to prison for “disrespecting” the president. The goal of the AKP for this election was to garner a supermajority that would allow them to change the constitution and make the political system a presidential one, which in all intents and purposes would make him the sole leader, and if his leadership style was to continue, make him a dictator.

In the last few weeks the city has been covered in banners, flags, posters. The blistering loud election minivans spewing propaganda and party songs, the billboards, the events where flowers were thrown, the promise of new tablets to all students, the promises of mega projects… There is a glaring inequality in terms of budgets, the AKP, the party in power has the deepest wallet by far. I cannot find the numbers now but they spend something like 10 times the budget of all the opposition parties put together… in places one could see a pathetically lonesome string of CHP banners floating next to a sea of AKP banners. This all over my neigborhood. The AKP had building size banners, 10 stories high, with the face of the president or prime minister. Some days gifts flew extravagantly from the skies at Galata tower to a crowd of scarved, fervent women. Everywhere billboards showing Erdogan deeply photohopped facia announcing some celebration or declaring some great feat to come in the “new Turkey”. We saw the great opening of the newly refurbished Şişhane city hall, an extravagant affair when they closed the whole neighborhood and covered the streets with flags. To counteract this onslaught, the other parties had some stickers here and there, small poorly attended booths, it looked hopeless. I wondered how such inequality could be legal in a democratic system. It seemed to me like matching the American olympic basketball “Dream Team” pros against a crew of blind dwarves in armor on the court. Hopeless.

But somehow, people spoke and things changed yesterday. The ruling party, last night, lost their absolute majority, the HDP, a Kurdish party from the east which never had a seat in the parliament, with at its helm a charismatic human rights lawyer ( who campaigned for Kurdish, women, gay rights among other things) managed to break the absolute rule of power. The sultan, defeated.

All day, Sunday, we were quiet, it seemed all of Istanbul was quiet. Yes Sundays are normally quiet but it seemed everyone was hushed. There had been a bombing on Saturday, there had been power outtages on Sunday morning (a tactic that had been used in the past to hinder the electoral process) There were complaints of violence in some areas, of cheatings in others, the word of the removal of international observers in a case where there was obvious interference with a voter. I was thinking how both Canada and the USA had fraudulent elections lately, (the last one in Canada) and no one seemed to care… so here… how far would it go? Would there be so much cheating that the the ruling party would just steal it all?

So here we are It’s night now and the votes are being counted. We watch the computer screen. The wish, the necessity, is to see the HDP get the 10% required for them to get into parliament. As the hours go by and the numbers firm up, we start hearing fireworks, car horns and horrays coming from Tarlabasi, definitely not an AKP stronghold, we decide to head out. The first thing that hits us very clearly is the sense of relief, peace in the air. It is quite unbelivable, it is so strong, undeniable. At the boulevard, cars go by with people hanging out the windows screaming and sporting victory signs, horns honking wildly as the careen down the road. I feel so relieved. I want to walk slowly to feel this fully.

We get to Tophane, a definitely conservative neighborhood, it’s dead quiet. The banners are gone. As if nothing every took place. The çiğ köfte guy is not so happy. He says this result is not good for him. We politely acknowledge his words. Up into Taksim, it’s suprisingly quiet. People carry shopping bags… many foreigners out. Yeah, as long as the capitalism lives, people are happy to quench their thirst for buying, spending all the money and plastic burning their pockets.

“Lets go to Gezi Park.” Gezi… remember the protests? The police violence? Erdogan’s police… a year ago I was so depressed as it seemed that the protests had been all for nothing, then a little while back I realized that those protests had indeed been successful as there I was walking in the park enjoying the trees and the grass. Gezi, my introduction to Turkey, to its people, to their spirit, I was fresh off the plane… my intro to Turkish politics,. There we sit to eat our çiğ köfte. It’s peaceful and so quiet, it makes me feel like I am in Europe or something. In the distance we hear horns, celebrations. But here, the air seems clean and so much lighter.

We walk back towards home, on Istiklal. Then at Mis Sokak, we see them: people with the HDP banners, dancing the Halay, smiling, singing, celebrating. This street was a hot one during Gezi, always people fighting the police here, I remember dodging the gas cannisters and water cannons coming here to play gigs at Karakedi.

I feel that the country dodged a heavy, deadly bullet. The People of Turkey spoke. There will not be a presidential dictator in Turkey. There is hope. It is in the air. I feel so relieved, so happy. I realize how much we were all existing under this dark tarp of madness, oppression, destruction, hopelessness to change. Now I understand a few things a bit better. Turks are patient, they have seen many a mad man leading them. They know to wait and when to strike.

As I turn the corner to head to my house, one of the too many billboards has been ripped to shreds, all that is left is some tatters of the president’s right eye and hairdo and a bit of his ugly gray suit. The 4,5 billboards all in that hand made, redesigned condition. Yay.


can you spot the evil eye on this 😉


One Response to “Turkish Election. We breathe.”

  1. Süheyl Karakaya Says:

    “It’s peaceful and so quiet, it makes me feel like I am in Europe or something.” I don’t how it sounds to you but definitely sounds cultural imperialistic or highly orientalistic to me. You’ve made very precise observations and commentaries to last election process of Turkey. While I appreciate your endevaour for objectivy, I guess some points has to be restored. First of all, this elections proved that AKP has not bigotedly entrenched voters as supposed by rivals of AKP. They can change their mind easily. On the other hand, I have to encourage you to step up from Taksim and make discoveries in deep Anatolia. You can see there, they want respect to their religion and their lifestyle. They are highly reluctant to goverment based modernisation. It’s only proof of AKP’s victory and fail of “Laïcisme” ideology in Turkey’s history.

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