Increasing tension and acts of violence ahead of Türkiye’s elections

Increasing tension and acts of violence ahead of Türkiye’s elections

The elections in Türkiye on May 14 are increasingly overshadowed by acts of accusations, threats and physical violence. UWI has compiled below some of the incidents.

1) Verbal attack on Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – April 21

The opposition’s main presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was verbally attacked on April 21 during a visit to the earthquake-hit city of Adıyaman.

Kılıçdaroğlu visited a cemetery where victims of the earthquake were buried. During the prayers, a man in the crowd started shouting to Kılıçdaroğlu: ”This man doesn’t know how to recite Fatiha (a verse from the Quran). Why are you letting him recite it?”

The public perceived the incident mainly as referring to Kılıçdaroğlu’s Alevi identity.

Later on the same day, Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted:

“In the cemetery, a grieving person can say or do anything. We must respect their pain. Let’s not discuss these things today, let’s properly commemorate our losses.”

Kılıçdaroğlu also stated that he forgave the person who verbally attacked him and asked the public not to expose the person on social media.

2) The interior minister compares elections military coup attempt of July 15, 2016 – April 27

In a speech on April 27, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu likened the elections on May 14 to the military coup attempt by the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) backed by the US according to the statements of Turkish officials.

“July 15 was an attempted military coup, and May 14 is a political coup attempt. It is very clear that the West is part of this coup. The West and its allies in Türkiye want to leave Türkiye powerless and take over the country.”

Soylu stated that this was not his interpretation but the very open statement of the US President Biden himself. Emphasizing that the US actions are well known in Türkiye, Soylu said “They could not succeed despite all the methods they have tried in the past.”

These remarks by Süleyman Soylu drew public attention and then he shared the following message on his social media account:

“July 15 was a de facto coup attempt. May 14, 2023 is the political coup attempt that can be initiated by bringing together each of the preparations to purge Türkiye.”

During a television program he participated in on May 4 Turkish Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu once again pointed out to the US as “behind the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt” and “in search of revenge against Erdoğan”.

“We know that the US was behind the coup attempts in Türkiye and they want revenge for the failed coups. We also know that they want to take revenge on Erdoğan for destroying the system of power the US had built in Türkiye since 1960s.”

“The US carried out coups in Türkiye in 1960, in 1971, in 1980 and on February 28, 1998. They are involved in the Gezi Park rallies [in Istanbul in 2013]. The US and the West infiltrated Turkish bodes of power and controlled state officials. Erdogan destroyed this system, so they want revenge. It is the US in particular who develop the coup plans.”

Soylu added that the US uses the PKK terrorist organization and the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) against Türkiye.

3) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu refers to the Cambridge Analytica for the elections on May 14 – May 1

Main opposition presidential candidate and Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu shared a video on May 1 warning the officials about the manipulation of voter preferences online. Referencing the 2018 Cambridge Analytica Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out the Justice and Development Party (AKP) as the possible actor in the manipulation.

Addressing Fahrettin Altun (Communications Director), Serhat Eroğlu (Head of the Communication Directorate’s department of data processing), Çağatay Özdemir and Evren Başar (Fahrettin Altun’s assistants), Kılıçdaroğlu said:

“There are two days left until the final ten days [before the election]. Let me give my final warning. Fahrettin Altun, Serhat and their teammates Çağatay and Evren; The dark web world you are trying to deal with will lead you into the hands of foreign intelligence. Playing Cambridge Analytica is beyond your capacity, boys. THIS IS MY FINAL WARNING!”

4) Bahçeli: Traitors will get either aggravated life sentences or bullets in their bodies – May 6

On May 6, speaking at an election rally in the city of Yalova, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said “These traitors will get either aggravated life sentences or bullets in their bodies.” Bahçeli referred not directly Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, but “his alliance partners”.

Devlet Bahçeli grounded the accusation of “treason” in that the Nation Alliance is planning to withdraw Turkish soldiers from Iraq and Syria and release jailed former Peoples’ Democratic Party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.

Bahçeli also said that foreign powers want to overthrow President Erdoğan and the opposition alliance, the Nation Alliance, aims to “sell Türkiye at the gambling table.”

5) Attack on Ekrem İmamoğlus bus with stones – May 7

Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İstanbul mayor and vice presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu’s election bus was attacked with stones during a rally in the city of Erzurum on May 7.

During the attack, İmamoğlu called on citizens to remain calm and continued to speak for a while. On top of the bus, İmamoğlu accused the governor and security forces of not preventing the attack: “The police who are watching the events, we are watching you. The governor of this city, the chief of police, we are watching you. There are citizens injured here, and you are just watching. Governor and Mayor of Erzurum, I will file a criminal complaint against you all. You provoke people.”

After the attack, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu shared a video on his Twitter account too:

“There is a militarist coalition consisting of mafias, militants, SADAT supporters, drug dealers who killed Sinan Ateş (former chairman of the youth branches of the Nationalist Movement Party), Gang of Five (supposed cartel of construction companies), and Hizbullah. These are the people who attacked our Mayor Ekrem today. Their aim is to scare our people. Türkiye is the country of the reasonable majority. The majority will end this evil. My dear citizens. Focus on May 14 elections. Do not be angry, do not be offended. Love your people, embrace your heart. Get well soon, my son Ekrem. Bringing change to the country has a price, and we are all ready to pay it.”

After the attack, İmamoğlu supporters gathered at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul to show their support.

6) Doğu Perinçek warns of color revolution attempt – May 9

In this harsh political atmosphere in the run-up to the elections, another statement came from Doğu Perinçek, the chairman of the Vatan Party.

Stating that violence is escalating and “weapons” has been surfacing in Türkiye, Perinçek said that in case Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the presidential candidate of the Nation Alliance, loses the elections, preparations are being made for a US-directed “color revolution”:

“This plan is directed by the ‘Secret Headquarters’ in Ankara. The US deep state declared its goal to the world in January 2020 with the Rand Corporation’s report ‘Türkiye’s Nationalist Course’.

In the event that Tayyip Erdoğan wins the election, there will be claims that the election was rigged and therefore illegitimate. ‘Tayyip Erdoğan will not leave power even if he loses the election’ is the main propaganda theme of the color revolution.

The Turkish nation is the great power in the face of the color revolution attempt. US imperialism is on the decline and color revolutions are outdated. It is the Turkish government that must make the Turkish state and nation effective.

A government based upon the power of the Turkish nation which embraces the founding values of the Turkish State, provides livelihoods to the nation, cherishes the producer classes, and makes good use of the stance of the countries of the world and its neighbors against imperialism is imperative for Türkiye. Such a government will definitely be formed and we call it the ‘National Government of the Producers’”.

7) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accuses Russia of spreading conspiracies and deep fakes – May 11

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused Russia of spreading conspiracies and deep fakes. On May 11, Kılıçdaroğlu wrote on Twitter:

“Dear Russian friends,

You are behind the montages, conspiracies, deep fakes and tapes that were exposed in this country yesterday,” he said, without providing further details. “If you want our friendship after May 15, get your hands off the Turkish state. We are still in favor of cooperation and friendship.”

The rival candidate of president Erdoğan shared the same message in Russian too.

On May 12 Kılıçdaroğlu spoke to Reuters and reaffirmed his claims.

He responded “If we did not have it [concrete evidence], I wouldn’t have tweeted” to the question of why he tweeted about Russia’s responsibility. Reuters writes “He did not elaborate on what the online content was.”

He also said in the interview: ”We find it unacceptable for another country to interfere in Türkiye’s election process in favour of a political party. I wanted the whole world to be aware of this, that is why I made this call openly by a tweet,” he said in an interview.

8) The leader of Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaign: Russia is interfering in elections – May 11

Erdoğan Toprak, the leader of Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaign and coordinator chief advisor to Kılıçdaroğlu said that they hear reports that Russia is interfering in the elections.

Journalist İsmail Saymaz reported his conversation with Erdoğan Toprak in his column. The related parts of the conversation concerning “Russia’s interference in the election” are as follows:

Will there be a change in Türkiye’s foreign relations in the event of a possible change of government?

No, but we don’t think it is right for states to interfere in our internal affairs in the electoral process or to favor one of the political parties.

I would like to ask you concretely. Which state do you mean?

Frankly speaking, we have these kinds of reports about Russia.

Like what?

I am speaking on the basis of reports we received. We are in favor of the continuation of the relationship between states. States have interests, historical relations and joint investments with their neighbors. We believe that continuity is essential regarding these investments. But if you build your relations with parties and not with states, the relations will be damaged. The relations should not be damaged. We expect this sensitivity from states with which we have hundreds of years of neighbors.

Are you hearing about Russian interference in the election process?

There are such reports. We think that there are some covert actions related to the campaigns. We wish this would not happen. We want our centuries-long relationship to continue.

You mean the interference of Russian intelligence?

I am not saying “This is what they did”. However I am underlining that as Republican People’s Party (CHP), we are closely following the reports and actions in this process. We hope that this is not true.

Can we interpret it like this: Russia is building relations with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), not with the Turkish state?

This is the information we have been receiving; it is not a relationship between Türkiye and Russia, but between the AKP and Russia. We don’t approve of that.

Is this not a kind of relationship to influence the electoral process?

Of course, this affects the election process. We are taking precautions against these effects.…

Are there any other states intervening other than Russia?

We haven’t heard such things.

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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March 2024