For me, each long domestic vacation is an occasion to getting the current feelings of the people, too. I often stop by the same places that I dropped around before, have a talk with the same people that I previously exchanged opinions with in every encounter, thus, find an opportunity to have a general impression of what people think on a particular subject.
This was the case in my last vacation which took me from Istanbul to Izmir, from there to Ankara and back.
Here is a brief summary of my impressions: It seems that the government made a crucial political mistake by insisting on the re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election. People don’t understand reasons of the election annulment, and tend to believe that it is unfair.
Binali Yıldırım, candidate of the ruling party is experiencing this situation in his encounters with people. Everyone in the country has heard what an old woman told him during a visit with his wife as a part of his election campaign. She said: “It would have been better if you had not asked for annulment of the election, wouldn’t it? We wouldn’t expect this from you. We like you very much, but these latest events are wrong.”
The whole of Turkey think like that woman, except a small group of people.
Electoral Council’s decision is like capital punishment
I may miss things once in a while, therefore, I ask hesitantly: Has the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) explained in public its reasoned decision for re-run the Istanbul election -a decision it announced on May 6, just 36 days after the election day?
I have not seen any news in media about official announcement of the YSK for reasons why it has annulled the election.
According to the latest news, the Council is likely to announce them today.
Their initial explanation of why the Council decided for re-run was far from convincing. We then heard that four of the seven permanent members of the Council had objected the idea of annulment, and the decision could only be taken thanks to the votes of the reserve members who were asked to join the voting.
Hearing the reasoned decision is necessary to quell the confusion about the matter.
The decision for the re-run of the election may be seen like equal to capital punishment, which is the heaviest penalty in criminal cases. When the most severe penalty is given in criminal cases, the decision has to be based on strong evidences against the convict, even catching him/her red-handed.
Being caught with his/her fingers in the cookie jar, so to speak…
Istanbul’s population is over 15 million, and 10 million of these people are voters. The decision for re-run of the election that forces these people to rush to ballot box in midsummer’s heat, cannot be justified with mere rumors or reasons that may be seen apocryphal.
Nobody should assume it is not noticed: Even though the decision for re-run appears to be against CHP(the Republican People’s Party, the main opposition -TN) and its candidate, it is in fact a punishment inflicted on the Istanbul electorate.
Undoubtedly, the Istanbul electorate do not deserve such a punishment.
Criminal courts conduct trials in the framework of indictments handed up by the prosecution, and give the defense the right to controvert and rebut on the basis of the evidence provided the defense beforehand. Whatever punishment a particular crime deserves, the court imposes that punishment on the convict only if allegations in the indictment are verified, and according to related articles of law.
AK Party’s appeal to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) with a three suitcase pile of ‘evidences‘ does not include any evidences related to those continuously repeated claims of AK Party and MHP’s spokespeople about electoral fraud, deceit and faulty entries into electoral records -we all know this. AK Party eventually took its claims to the YSK as doubtful formation of the balloting committees and irregularities in selections of individuals authorized in the committees to the Council.
The decision therefore should remain in this framework. The initial explanation is in conformity with this anyway.
Now the questions
It is not easy to understand how on earth the very presence of individuals as polling clerks who carried out the same duty at ballot boxes in the previous referendums, general and mayoral elections, presidential elections can turn into a crime that commands re-run of the election?
How is it possible that while the other three votes (for the sub-provincial municipalities, municipal councils and neighborhood administrations) are valid, only the votes for the metropolitan municipality are considered problematic to the extent of commanding a re-run?
Since the appointment of the polling clerks is the duty of provincial electoral boards, if the faulty practice deserves a penalty, whom to penalize? It should be the provincial electoral boards, but not the elected mayor or voters, no?
These are the challenging questions preoccupy people’s minds.
And my mind, too.
Another problem is that although all of the permanent members of the Council were present in the session in which the decision was taken, the reserve members were let to vote, thus the decision for annulment of the election became possible. It is said that such a proceeding took place before; but, is this a reasonable excuse for the decision of re-run of the election in a city with huge electorate such as Istanbul?
Here is yet another question for you.
We will be able to learn answers to these questions only when the Electoral Council announces its reasoned decision.
I guess the Council will announce its reasoned decision today. [The reason why I feel the need of using the phrase, “I guess” here is that there were a number of days before on which the decision was expected to be heard, but it was not materialized.] I have written this piece to let you know what explanatory points I expect to find in the reasoned decision, allowing you to compare the reasons of justification with the questions I have put here one by one.
The ultimate decision will be taken by the people on June 23.
[Translated by Bernar Kutluğ from the the article appeared in this site’s Turkish section on May 20, 2019]