Reflections on the Istanbul election results

Do you remember Bob Marley’s famous song?

“Rise up this mornin’

Three little birds

Perch by my doorstep

Singin’ sweet songs

Sayin’, ‘This is my message to you’

Singin’, Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!

Every little thing, is gonna be all right. Don’t worry!”

Not only Turkey’s but Europe’s largest city – Istanbul – rose up after the rerun metropolitan mayor election and found that every little, and big, thing is actually all right.

The expression that “Everything will be alright” (literally, “will be beautiful”) was the battle cry of the opposition alliance candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu who won the election last night. At this point, his win or his opponent’s loss is not what makes everything little and big beautiful. It is the victory of Turkish democracy that, despite three major and two virtual coups realized and one attempted coup-bid, is still healthy, well and kicking.

The target of the “kicking” part is from our unfortunate European friends and so-called allies, as well as some domestic intellectuals, liberal and left-leaning radicals. This small but disproportionately vocal group believed and had their European and U.S. ilk believe that it was the end of democracy in Turkey; the sitting president was about to abolish the constitution. As if no one ever contested the vote counting and tallies before in Turkey, these people portrayed the exercise of perfectly legal rights by the People’s Alliance group as usurpation. Should the Istanbul Region Election Board have accepted the request of a recount of all votes by the Nation’s Alliance then there probably would have been no need to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Election Council (YSK). But the opposition Nation Alliance asked the Istanbul board to stop ongoing recounts and not to allow a total recount. The board upheld the nation’s view. The election boards are composed of judges serving in local courts.

A casual observer of Turkish politics may not easily understand why it is a beautiful day today in Turkey in general, and in Istanbul in particular.

The word “beka” (survivability) was one of the important issues during this prolonged election campaign. Despite the fact that they were local elections and the municipalities in Turkey are not like Swiss cantons, German Bundesland or U.S. city governments but simple local administrations in charge of water and sewage, urban public transport, waste management and fire-fighting, the 2019 local elections had been presented as a plebiscite about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Some sources, as they did in Venezuela, tried to turn the local election into a referendum about the presidency. The leaders of the two opposition minority parties did not say if the alliance of the president’s party received fewer votes than the other alliance, who would have been endorsed as president? After all, President Erdoğan was not running in this election. Funny, these two parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good Party (İP), and the media that openly support them managed to create an atmosphere similar to that of a general election. But the Turkish people, with great intelligence, foresight and dexterity, showed no change of heart and People Alliance candidates received as much margin of the total votes as Erdoğan did in June 2018. Therefore, there is no ruckus about the legitimacy of the presidency.

Again, a casual observer would hardly comprehend why it is important to have a popular front united and standing tall behind the president. Today, the most common feeling among the people is the betrayal by their historical allies, the U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany. The Turkish people remember the false promises of the U.S. to withdraw its support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the PKK. The whole country is watching the EU ganging up against Turkish Cypriots’ rights to explore for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean and takes heed of this.

With what it has gained in this election, Turkey has risen up this beautiful morning, believing everything will be alright and turns a watchful eye to its region.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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