Turkey Holds Elections in The Midst of Political Scandals, Social Media Bans

By Catherine Casey 03-31-14

Photo Courtesy: WEBN-Boston Correspondent Catherine Casey
Photo Courtesy: WEBN-Boston Correspondent Catherine Casey

Polls opened in Turkey on Sunday for the country’s municipal elections. These elections are taking place in a turbulent time, with rampant social media blocks and supposed corruption plaguing the nation.

These elections may not be important in themselves, but the results will show how the people want to be governed in the future and may give insight to the outcome of the presidential election later this year and the 2015 parliamentary election.

Twitter has been banned since March 20 and YouTube has been blocked in the country since March 27. The Twitter ban is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reaction to apparent recordings of him telling his son to get rid of large amounts of money. YouTube was blocked after other alleged government recordings about Syria leaked. These recording and other incidents have led to growing mistrust of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP is facing off against its biggest opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). CHP held its final rally before the election on Saturday in Kadiköy, Istanbul. Thousands of people stood on rooftops, cars, and in large crowds to hear CHP party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu speak.

Cihan, a young bystander at the rally, spoke out against the social media bans.

“It’s about freedom, and nobody can touch your freedom. So it’s the main point for our country. Some political things are going on. YouTube is blocked too, and really I am sorry about it,” Cihan said.

Though Twitter is banned and YouTube is blocked, many people are still using it. A one point last week Turkey had the 8th highest Twitter usage worldwide.

Cihan explained how he and others still using the app.

“They are getting around the block. Tunnelbear- it’s a kind of VPN program. Everybody uses it or we are changing our DNS.”

The Turkish people may be upset with what is going on in the country, but some still would vote for the AKP candidate.

“There are some issues right now,” said Enver Yunkur, a hostel manager in Istanbul.

“[People] said that the Prime Minister is stealing money from the public. Some people say this is right, but I don’t agree. Since [AKP] came to power in the government, I think they’re doing a good job. Most of the people in Turkey think like that.”

Though AKP and Erdoğan may not seem popular in global media, there is still a good chance that the AKP will hold power in Istanbul’s mayoral election this weekend.

“I support the government, I’m going to vote for the government right now,” Yunkur stated on Saturday.  “YouTube has been blocked maybe four or five years ago by the government. This was just temporary. It happens sometimes in Turkey.”

Polls close Sunday night, but the race may be too close to call. This election will influence the outcome of bigger elections later this year and in 2015, but only time will tell how the country will change in the next few months.