Three men are standing alone in a cemetery facing each other with their weather-beaten faces in dust and dirt and confronting each other with suspicious looks. They remain silent for more than 2 minutes, and have been accompanied by a stressful music.
This crowning face-off part is from Sergio Leone’s cult movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (1966. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo), an Italian Spaghetti Western movie starred by Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in their title roles. The film is about two outlaws and one officer of the army, all of whom are searching for a gold treasure hidden in a remote Wild West cemetery. Meanwhile, they are surrounded by a raging Civil War that puts things in a different perspective. The director offers and points out a particular moral compass in the film and shows that the characters are not acting according to their titles. There has been a quite complex world where there is no pure good, bad or ugly. The described well known scene is called “trio,” which is said to be one of the best scenes of Western movies, and enjoys inactivity in telling a story, with wordless confrontation between the characters.
Scene 1: Flashback
Following a traumatic and tiring election campaign in Turkey, a large percentage of the population went to the polls on March 31 to decide on their provincial mayors, and the Turkish public witnessed a severe political battle over the results of Istanbul as in the above-mentioned face-off scene; confrontation, stillness and tension. Following a furious election night when the state-run Anadolu Agency had stopped updating results for more than 13 hours after AKP candidate Binali Yildirim declared victory, opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu held several press conferences to update their winning results with a narrow band. The ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) appealed to the district’s electoral boards and then to the Istanbul provincial electoral board to recount invalid votes in over a dozen districts and all votes in three districts in Istanbul. The formal recognition of Imamoglu’s victory on April 17 by the Supreme Election Board (YSK) seems to end the endless series of objections by the ruling AKP to the Istanbul race. However, in accordance with May 6, 2019 decision of YSK after appeal of AKP; it was indicated that the Board’s judges had accepted the allegations of some polling station officials were not appointed as stated in Turkish election law, among public officials. However, Turkish voters had voted for four different items in local elections (Provincial Mayor, District Mayor, Municipal Assembly, Mukhtar), only Istanbul’s Metropolitan Mayorship was cancelled and concluded for a rerun on the above allegations. As a result, re-election for the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul will take place on June 23.
And YSK took the last step on May 22, 2019, and the reasoning for canceling the Istanbul mayoral elections was presented in a 250-page document. Legal authorities generally conclude that the document contains discrepancies and that it is legally unacceptable. Seven members of the electoral board voted in favor of the annulment, while four opposed it. There are four items in the reasoning for renewing the Istanbul election; AKP’s claims, Istanbul election board’s replies, majority decision, opposed judges’ annotation.
Seven members of the electoral board concluded that due to a lack of or unsigned counting sheets, some 30.281 voters in 108 ballot boxes were declared invalid. “The lack of counting sheets in 108 ballot boxes, one of the most important factors in determining the results of the election, seriously damages the reliability of the results of the election in these boxes,” they added. In the March 31 mayoral elections in Istanbul, polling clerks who were not civil servants served in 754 polling centers as well according to the reasoning. The council said that this unprecedented practice would affect the 13,729 vote difference between the alliances of the ruling and the opposition.
Scene 2: The Good
The Supreme Electoral Board’s (YSK) decision of May 6 will be referred to as the date on which confidence in elections came to an end, the rule of law diminished, and, more importantly, the collapse of Turkish democracy. However, there are no more party leaders or parties, alliances or candidates after this cancelation decision and having seen the justification for it. The distinction is quite clear: those on the law and democracy side – the Good – and those on the other side. From now on, this or that party, ideology, left-right is irrelevant definitions.
Ekrem Imamoglu, CHP (Republican People’s Party) Istanbul mayoral candidate, said on May 22 that YSK’s decision was taken under the President’s heavy pressure, and added adding “Two hundred and fifty pages mean nothing to me. This, what we call the reasoned decision, is an unreasonable decision in fact. There’s no justification here.” Imamoglu stressed that YSK’s decision put an end to democracy and asked, “Why don’t you clarify our voters ‘ minds? How many votes could have an impact on the outcome? Did I get an extra 50,000 votes in those mentioned ballot boxes?”
On the other hand, CHP also questioned why the board only canceled the mayor’s vote when ballot slips were placed in the same envelope for Istanbul’s mayoral district, municipal councils, and mukhtar posts. The party’s deputy chairman, Muharrem Erkek, pointed out that the board’s reasoning covers the claims of irregularities presented in AKP’s appeal, and added, “A trap for democracy has been set up.” CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak called the reasoned decision a disgrace to democracy and he added, referring to President Erdogan, “The one who is responsible is, unfortunately, in the palace.”
IYI (Good) Party Chairman Meral Akşener spoke about YSK’s reasoning document and stressed that they could find no reason in the justification statement and “The basic thing was that the vote was stolen, but in the document – both in the decision and in the annotation – there is not a single word about stolen votes,” she added.
HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Co-Chair Pervin Buldan emphasized that YSK had declared a reasoning document without any reason and “How are they going to explain the lack of reason in a 250-page justification document?” In her tweet, she asked.
Scene 3: The Bad
Indeed, it’s quite simple who or anything that isn’t “good” is “bad.” The Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) decision of May 6 will be referred to as the date on which confidence in elections has ended, the rule of law has diminished, and, more importantly, the collapse of Turkish democracy has been recorded; you may well say it is number one on the “bad” list. The board’s reasoning paper is the following item. Moreover, there is no doubt that the Nation’s alliance’s claims of stolen votes without concrete evidence are bad. Also, it is incredibly wrong / bad / dishonest for the AKP authorities to quote the part of the document where their appeal was written as YSK reasoning.
Recep Özel, the YSK representative of the ruling AKP, said there was a clear legal requirement that was amended a few years ago and ought to be met. “Non-regulation of voting tally sheets in 108 polls seriously harmed the reliability of the election results,” Ozel tweeted. He highlighted the illegality and irregularities caused by appointing ballot box chairs by the violation of the legal requirements and added that the reasoning document of YSK had proven their arguments.
After YSK released the reasoning, Binali Yıldırım, AKP candidate in Istanbul mayoral rerun elections, spoke to Turkish broadcaster Habertürk, “They could not write a party’s discourse in reasoning, and we used that expression in public discourse.” He recalled the voting gap and stressed that it had fallen from 29,000 to 13,000 during the vote count and that he could have taken the vote if it weren’t stolen.
Chairman of MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), Devlet Bahçeli, said the MHP welcomed the reasoning of the YSK, adding that the YSK exposed the fraud and corruption in ballot boxes.
President Erdogan, made statements the AK Party iftar dinner held in Istanbul on May 26. He said that they find the decision of YSK accurate and highlighted the need to explain the process to people of Istanbul in the remaining 4 weeks. “All the documents and information are included in the reasoning of YSK. The annotations of opposing YSK judges do not include any worthwhile arguments,” he added.
Scene 4: The Ugly
YSK’s decision dated May 6, 2019 and its declared reasoning dated May 22, 2019 along with other decisions in the recent process of local elections are nothing but ugly. Seven members of the electoral board voted in favor of the annulment, while four opposed it. The majority of the judges stated that the appointment of non-civil servants in 754 polling centers, 108 improperly signed sheets and 706 improper votes was sufficient to cancel elections.
YSK chair Sadi Güven, however, objected and noted that while 754 non-civil servants as chairs of ballot stations were in violation of the law, it could not be a reason to cancel the elections as there were 1104 AKP observers at the stations mentioned. And, he added, there were 36 AKP observers at the 22 stations where sheets were not signed. Güven says parties may appeal to the ballot box committees within two days after they have formed, and they have not. Thus, the election cannot be cancelled even if the ballot chairs were non-public servants. Another opponent judge noted that members of the AKP did not object to the formation of the ballot stations and added that all observers would have had to agree to conclude a violation. He also added that setting up ballot committees could not be grounds for cancelation and voters could not object to setting up the committees.
Scene 5: The Optimist
The process starting on May 6 is a long-term difficult path and involves much more than local elections and/or their outcomes. The aim should be to re-establish the Turkish democracy and state institutions that were demolished by YSK’s aforementioned decision, in a better format; and the “good” side has to come together and join forces for the greater good. The society should be able to meet on the common ground, the sense of unity, and learn to cheer up for something together again as 17 years before. The AKP has succeeded in polarizing society to the extent that we cannot share happiness together as one, such as national or religious day celebrations, national football (sport) games or Eurovision music contests, or any kind of international accomplishments. The diagnosis is that “we are divided.” We need to feel the unity again, so contributing to finding a common ground is the “good” side’s duty. The crucial element here is each party’s position on the Kurdish issue. Without Kurdish people and/or pro-Kurdish party, walking to a brighter future is impossible. As a result, we don’t live in a way out of the world and we have very serious and huge problems that we need to address and solve; like S400, tension in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria, economic crisis etc. And besides, we have to keep up with being optimistic after YSK’s wrong and biased decision and reasoning, even if it’s pretty hard; and, we have to succeed in avoiding the dark scenarios.
As stated in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” this is a complex world in which there is no pure good, bad or ugly; surely all of them are capable of doing good and bad things for others. Like, the opposition bloc’s Achilles ‘ heel is the Kurdish issue. The alliance elements include Turkish nationalists who have an inflexible and resistive attitude towards the issue, which over the years has been proven to be wrong. While it’s not very loud, we start hearing reasonable voices from supporters of the ruling party. And finally, YSK’s 4 judges ‘ annotations can be called as promising.
There is no need to be pessimistic, therefore; the solution lies within the foresight of people of the Turkish Republic. It is certain that our shared demands are democracy, freedom of thought and law, so that a common ground can be created either this or that way. Again quoted from the cult movie “I’ve feeling it’s really gonna be a good and long battle”
Other highlights from past week
US sanctions over S400
The US has issued an ultimatum to Turkey that sanctions will be imposed if the country buys Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. According to Turkish TV channel A Haber, Ankara has rejected news reports that the US has set an official deadline for Turkey to withdraw from the S-400 deal with Russia by the end of the first week of June. “Nothing of that kind [has occurred] at the official level,” Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran said, “In March the US renewed its previous proposal on supplies of Patriot missile systems. Actually, we believe that this [media report] concerned this proposal,” Reuters reported.
The Turkish government has refused to back out of purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile system, MoD Hulusi Akar told reporters.
President Erdogan said last week that Moscow’s next-generation missile defense system, the S-500, would be developed by Turkey and Russia. “There’s no question of taking a step back from buying the S-400s. That’s a deal,” said Erdogan at the time. “The S-500 will be jointly manufactured after theS-400,” he added.
New finance package “IVME”
Turkey will provide a 30-billion-Turkish Lira ($4.9-billion) financing package for sectors which have export potential but are riddled with a foreign trade deficit and high import dependency, the finance minister said Thursday. The new finance package named “IVME” (Acceleration in Turkish. Acronym of advanced, productive, national industry) will target sectors which have four main features, Berat Albayrak said. (Hürriyet Daily reported)