News / Europe

    Erdogan Dominates Turkey's Uneven Presidential Race

    Turkey's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul, August 3, 2014.
    Turkey's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul, August 3, 2014.
    Reuters

    Cheers erupted from the packed stands when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan scored his third goal in a celebrity soccer match to mark the opening of an Istanbul stadium.

    His orange jersey bore the number 12, a reminder of Erdogan's ambition to become the nation's 12th president in Turkey's first popular vote for its head of state, on August 10.

    After dominating Turkish politics for more than a decade, few doubt Erdogan will beat his main rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a diplomat with little profile in domestic politics, or Selahattin Demirtas, a young Kurdish hopeful.

    But Erdogan's opponents say it has been an unfair contest, a charge the prime minister dismisses. An Erdogan victory would concentrate more power in the hands of a man who has divided Turkish society along secular-religious lines and worried Turkey's western allies.

    While his rivals have funded their rallies mainly from donations, Erdogan has turned his public appearances, some of them state-financed, into a show of strength, from the ground-breaking ceremony of Istanbul's third airport in June to the launch of a high-speed train line in late July.

    He criss-crossed the country in the prime ministerial jet to address supporters, effectively beginning his campaign well before the July 11 start date set by the election board. Erdogan's spokesman said the prime minister had ceased using his official plane and car since tighter restrictions on campaigning came into effect on July 31.

    The election board last month rejected an appeal from the main opposition party CHP that Erdogan should resign as prime minister in order to run his presidential campaign. Erdogan points to the election campaigns run by Barack Obama and Angela Merkel while they remained in office.

    “In my opinion, Erdogan is like an athlete permitted to use illegal steroids or drugs yet permitted to compete,” said Cem Toker, head of Turkey's opposition Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) who has written extensively about Turkey's electoral system.

    “His time in power, his popularity and his charismatic appeal give him a fair advantage as an incumbent. However, his use of state funds and resources without any discretion gives him a very unfair advantage,” said Toker, whose party is backing Ihsanoglu.

    Several European delegations that have visited Turkey to observe the campaign echoed Toker's concern.

    “The campaign activities of the prime minister are large-scale events, often combined with official government events,” said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors elections, in an interim report on July 31.

    “While other candidates actively campaign, the public visibility of their campaigns is limited.”

    An OSCE delegation noted that children's toys and women's scarves were distributed to the crowd following a speech by Erdogan in the Black Sea coastal city of Ordu on July 19.

    A spokesman for Erdogan's office said none of the premier's campaigning activities were in breach of the law.

    “The bottom line is what the law says and there is nothing being done against the law here. He has stopped using his usual vehicle and plane (since July 31),” the spokesman said.

    Media as vote winner

    A delegation from the Council of Europe, which aims to promote human rights and democracy, told Turkey's broadcasting regulator RTUK in July that there should be a clear distinction between Erdogan's speeches as prime minister and those he delivered as a presidential candidate.

    A report compiled at the request of an opposition board member at the regulator found that state broadcaster TRT devoted 533 minutes to Erdogan between July 4 and July 6. Over the same period it covered Ihsanoglu for three minutes and 24 seconds and allocated only 45 seconds to Demirtas, local media reported.

    The Council of Europe pointed to possible worrying consequences from last month's ruling by the election board that Erdogan need not resign as prime minister while campaigning for the presidency.

    “The delegation ... noted that the prime minister is not required by the law to resign but also that the use of administrative resources is forbidden by the law,” it said in a statement following its visit in July.

    “This position gives him disproportionate access to resources and media coverage, in the absence of strict regulations. The issue of misuse of administrative resources was raised on several occasions during the meetings.”

    A spokesman for Erdogan's office said all election activities were in accordance with the law.

    Turkey's electoral laws prohibit speeches and opening ceremonies for services and projects funded by the state and municipalities during the campaign period. They also impose some restrictions on using state vehicles during campaigning.

    Erdogan's candidacy was announced some three weeks before the tighter campaign restrictions came into effect on July 31. During that period he frequently addressed rallies around the country, criticizing his opponents and trumpeting his successes.

    “The taxes we as citizens pay are meant to be spent for the public's benefit. The politician cannot spend it for his own benefit,” said Sami Selcuk, a law academic and former head of Court of Appeals. “Using the prime minister's plane for campaigning obviously is against certain ethical values.”

    Turkey is in uncharted waters in holding a popular vote for the presidency for the first time. Heads of state have in the past been chosen by parliament, meaning such questions of campaign financing have not arisen in the same way before.

    New elite

    A typical election campaign would cost close to 50 million lira ($24 million), much of it spent on TV and print advertising as well as rallies, Gokhan Sen, head of campaign marketing firm Proje Yapim, told the Hurriyet newspaper recently.

    In more than a decade under Erdogan's rule, Turkey has seen a period of growth and the emergence of a new business elite, conservative and loyal to Erdogan.

    This business network and its access to private funds have added to Erdogan's head start, creating an imbalance of campaign funding, his rivals say. Erdogan has declined to comment on the funding of his campaign.

    Demirtas, who is polling a distant third in the presidential race, said he had collected some 600,000 lira in campaign donations, while Ihsanoglu said he raised more than 2 million as of last week. Erdogan's office did not provide a figure for the prime minister's campaign war chest.

    The rival candidates complained about Erdogan's domination of the Turkish media, which is largely owned by conglomerates with business ties to the prime minister's AK Party, and which has fallen in global press freedom rankings in recent years.

    Turkey fell to 154th out of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, compared with 116th in 2003 when the AK Party first came to power.

    Mainstream Turkish media came under fire from government critics last summer for broadcasting Erdogan's speeches live and failing, initially at least, to cover anti-government demonstrations that were erupting around the country.

    “In 12 years, the AK Party has got more and more expert about how to censor the press, how to spread fear amongst the media,” said Esra Arsan, a journalism professor at Istanbul Bilgi University. “Practice is making censorship perfect.”

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora