TV debate is too risky for AK Party candidate.. A new political atmosphere is in the offing…


A candidate who enjoys an unprecedented media power behind him suddenly appears quite eager for a debate with his rival on screen despite the fact that his party has got a decision for not facing off against rival politicians in such debates and faithfully abided this decision for 17 years… As if this itself is not interesting enough, he nominates a journalist known to be perhaps one of the most ardent opponents of his party in the dissenting media as the ‘moderator‘ of the proposed debate and makes the same offer to another dissident journalist -he accepted the offer- when the first nominee declines the offer…

Don’t you find something strange in this picture?

To me, it seems strange. This is the reason why I had doubts about the occurrence of such a debate although the groundwork for the program was already laid out.

Another reason why I approached occurrence of the debate with caution was this: We heard that representatives of the two rival candidates, ‘applying the US model‘ for their debate, came to an agreement concerning the groundwork of the event, according to which, the both candidates would be asked the same questions and expected to respond to questions within the same amount of time…

This rule was disadvantageous to AK Party’s candidate.

Those who follow election campaigns of the two candidates know that the candidate of the ruling party speaks slowly and distinctly, occasionally wandering off and making it somewhat difficult to understand what he is getting at while the opposition’s candidate articulates himself well and speaks like a machine gun when required.

Such traits immediately make themselves noticeable in battle of words on television.

I wonder whether Binali Yıldırım, the candidate of the ruling party, is aware of this situation. 


The moderator is from the media that AK Party discredits

Now it seems that I needlessly had misgivings about occurrence of the debate. The two candidates will appear in the program on Sunday, and all television channels will be allowed to air the debate if they wish to do so. The point of no return has already been exceeded.

We have media members who always believed that the government is immune from any mistake, and if any key figure from the government commits a mistake it is their professional duty to defend that mistake. What I have noticed while glancing through newspapers today is this: They do not show any doubt in their pieces today about those aspects of the groundwork of the debate that appear to be risky.

However, they are supposed to find it odd that the candidate of the ruling party did not prefer a TV channel and a ‘presenter‘ from the pro-government media although there are a good number of such channels and ‘presenters‘ there, and he insisted on a dissident journalist to be the moderator of the debate.

Did the ruling party see the pro-government media worthless? Did decision makers in the party think that it would be counter-productive if their candidate appeared on a supportive TV channel with a supportive ‘moderator‘ in the debate? A number of possibilities come to mind, and whatever the reason may be, it is a disgrace for the media members who are thought to be pro-government. The candidate of the ruling party could have well nominated one of them as the moderator and insisted on that individual.

The ruling party’s candidate did the exact opposite, however, and this must have upset many media members in the pro-government media. If they do not feel anything disturbing about it, they should feel so.

What is noticed in the pieces pertaining to the topic is the absence of common-sense commentaries.  Some sort of attitude like “There must be some element of prophecy in this decision” lurks behind most of the pieces.

After all, there is still one figure who is quite unhappy about this picture and reveals his discontent: Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of MHP which is AK Party’s political ally. He has objections to the idea of debate on screen and to the choice of the moderator of the debate, and even to the new discourse the ruling party’s candidate has adopted all along with the hope for winning the election. Bahçeli has shared his harsh objections with his followers on social media.


The election assumes more significance than expected

When I was commenting yesterday on the topic of the prospective debate of which occurrence wasn’t certain yet, I noted that the expansion of the campaigns for the mayoral election in Istanbul into a number of cities on the Black Sea coasts by the opposition’s candiate Ekrem Imamoğlu and some Anatolian cities by Binali Yıldırım could give rise to serious consequences after the election that are not easy to anticipate beforehand.

Even the topic of the debate ‘modelled on American style‘ appears to overstep the bounds of the mayoral election in Istanbul.

I have been often asked “What sort of consequences?” after my piece appeared in media.

Regardless of which of these two candidates wins the election, the election result will lead to a re-shuffeling of the cards in either case. The outcome of the election may change policies of the government, have an adverse impact on the alliance between AK Party and MHP, and give rise to calls for an early general election.

This is my anticipation. 

Devlet Bahçeli, even without consulting his partners in the coalition government, had announced “The country needs an early election on November 3” in 2002 even though there were still around 18 months to the end of the government’s term in power.

It was that early election on November 3 in 2002 that paved the way for AK Party’s ascendancy to power… [Devlet Bahçeli’s party, MHP, failed to satisfy the rule of minimum 10 percent threshold in order to be represented in the parliament, and could not send any MP to the parliament although the party leader himself imposed the early election.]

A final note here. I had shared a remark of a close friend of mine quite a while ago: “If victory of the opposition’s candidate becomes very likely, we may witness annulment of the election once again, and even perhaps the election would never take place.

I was exchanging ideas with that friend yesterday, and noticed that he still felt the need for ending each of his remarks with the phrase “If the election gets materialized, of course” when our discussion led us to the latest developments around the election.

How could one ever dare to prevent the occurrence of the election after this stage? It is just incredible.

Nevertheless, I would like you to know that there are knowledgeable people who have this conviction.


[Translated by Bernar Kutluğ from the the article appeared in this site’s Turkish section on June 11, 2019]