Following the municipal elections on Sunday, Ankara has been the scene of an extraordinary backlash against electoral fraud. On Sunday evening, Melih Gökçek, the AKP mayor who has held his seat for 25 years, claimed victory with 95% of the votes counted. The news then emerged that hundreds of thousands of the CHP (main opposition) votes had not been counted or had been transferred to other parties – it seems that numbers entered into the electoral computer system did not tally with the physical ballot papers. Bags of ballots were found binned in the vicinity of the polling centres (mainly schools), and after photographs had circulated on social media, over a thousand volunteers went to track them down and guard the remaining ballots until morning. Cheering images of people wrapped in blankets, asleep, with their arms around sacks of ballots have been circulating illicitly on Twitter (see above). Further confusion was caused by a widespread blackout in the early hours of this morning – the Energy Minister responded to outrage and claims that further electoral foul play had been conducted under cover of darkness by saying a cat had got into a power substation and tampered with the electricity flow.
As I write (15.30 GMT Tuesday), the CHP has lodged a complaint with the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) and hundreds of people are protesting outside the council headquarters in Ankara, despite heavy police intervention. Gökçek, the self-proclaimed victor, has vacillated between accusing the CHP and Gülenists of planning provocations and claiming that, if there has been a “mistake” with the vote counting, the blame lies not with him but with the YSK.
There is some concern that the results of the elections will be officially announced tomorrow at around the same time that the CHP’s complaint is processed by the Supreme Electoral Council, meaning that it could be too late to challenge the result.
Unfortunately, as a friend of mine pointed out on Twitter earlier today, this latest fiasco will fit into Erodgan’s victory speech rhetoric of opposition provocation, foreign plots and “dirty politics”. No matter that the dirty politics appears to be emanating very much from AKP home ground – the millions of Turks who will hear this news on pro-government media news channels across the land will hear it warped and twisted against itself: a perfect example of Erdogan’s special brand of moonshine.
Photo above from Hurriyet News.