What to Expect From Turkey’s Presidential Runoff


When worldwide election observers issued their preliminary findings following the Could 14 elections in Turkey, they concluded that whereas the competition was “aggressive and largely free,” it was fought on an unlevel enjoying discipline through which the incumbent and the ruling events, by advantage of biased media protection and restrictions on freedom of expression and meeting, had an “unjustified benefit.” The election noticed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan safe 49.51% of the vote—simply shy of the 50% wanted to keep away from a Could 28 runoff—to opposition chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.88%.

For Nevşin Mengü, certainly one of Turkey’s main journalists, the decision hardly got here as a shock. Mengü has seen firsthand the maintain that Erdoğan’s authorities has on the nation’s media panorama. Her crucial reporting of the Turkish President finally value her her job at CNN Türk in 2017, after she reported on his assembly with then U.S. President Donald Trump in a lower than favorable mild. (She had a previous run-in with Erdoğan over feedback he made concerning the function of ladies in Turkish society.) Mengü has since gone on to current her own popular show on YouTube.

Erdoğan’s management over the Turkish media panorama was significantly palpable within the run as much as the first-round of voting. In April, Erdoğan reportedly benefited from 32 hours of airtime on state tv in comparison with simply 32 minutes for Kılıçdaroğlu.

Learn Extra: Why Erdoğan Is Now the Clear Favorite in Turkey’s Election

TIME caught up with Mengü on the sidelines of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy earlier this month, the place she spoke concerning the state of media freedom in Turkey and what to anticipate from the presidential runoff on Could 28.

TIME: You have been a night information anchor at CNN Türk earlier than leaving the community in 2017. Are you able to discuss what prompted the choice?

Nevşin Mengü: I had been anchoring the 6 o’clock information for some time. The way it works proper now in Turkey is … there are pro-government trolls. They assault folks. They finger-point folks. The identical factor was taking place to me. Professional-government trolls hated me, they have been at all times finger-pointing me and I needed to go to courtroom to testify due to that a few instances, due to actually foolish accusations.

There was a Trump-Erdoğan assembly [in May 2017], the primary assembly after Trump was elected. I used to be speaking about that as a result of that was taking place on stay TV, and I mentioned principally that the assembly solely lasted 23 minutes. And this pissed [off] Mr. Erdoğan as a result of he needed to current the assembly like they have been greatest buddies and that it was a protracted assembly. He was pissed and thru folks he contacted my boss and he mentioned they don’t need me anymore. My boss negotiated … after which I left.

In comparison with different folks, it’s not such a tragic story. I used to be simply fired. That’s advantageous, it occurs.

It’s true that many journalists have fared worse in Turkey, which is one of the biggest jailers of journalists on this planet. However no matter whether or not a journalist is jailed or fired, the result is kind of the identical, proper? You have been prevented from doing all of your job.

Really, we’re form of fortunate in comparison with former generations of journalists as a result of now there’s digital media and you are able to do your job wherever. I do know in America, for instance, podcasts are huge. You are able to do podcasts, you will discover sponsors, and whatnot. In Turkey, YouTube is de facto huge. So due to all this, now, standard media may be very divided. A giant chunk is pro-government, pro-state, pro-Erdoğan media. They’ve the cash and so they have the means. Then there’s the smaller, pro-opposition media. There may be nothing in between.

Folks, particularly youthful folks, flip to digital media increasingly more. Folks both observe on Twitter, they flip to YouTube. I’ve a viewer base on YouTube, thank God, and so they donate. So I’ve a small staff now. This has been a studying expertise for me. I grew to become an entrepreneur journalist, in a way. It’s like a small enterprise, however we try to do idealistically what we will do. We’re doing movies, we’re following the elections. When the Ukraine battle began, I went there to cowl the battle. After all, I can’t be like CNN. However no less than I can do free reporting and folks worth that now in Turkey.

You coated the primary spherical of the Turkish election. What did you make of the result? Has there been a way of deflation among the many opposition?

I’m actually sorry for the opposition voters as a result of they’re craving for some hope, for one thing, somebody to take the duty. The opposition is in shock proper now. As a result of the factor is, they believed that they’d take this election within the first spherical. I imply, really, [the result] was not that dangerous—Erdoğan misplaced within the first spherical. He doesn’t have a easy majority. That’s one thing essential. You could have nearly all of the nation skeptical, no less than, about Erdoğan. However now, the opposition appears to be in panic. That’s what’s saddening.

Loads of observers appeared to share the opposition’s expectation that victory was attainable—even possible. If you noticed the ultimate outcomes are available, have been you shocked?

The factor is, for the final 20 years, we at all times had this hope that the opposition would possibly win. That is the primary time they have been this near successful.

It’s actually arduous to ballot for polling firms. Within the metropolitan cities, Erdoğan is shedding. He retains shedding. Really, in 51 cities, he misplaced votes. Within the larger cities, they don’t want Erdoğan, principally. In smaller cities and rural areas, he has sturdy help. Nevertheless it’s the identical sample all over the place. I feel it’s tougher for pollsters to go to little tiny villages once they’re making a pattern. They’re often within the larger cities. After all, they go to smaller cities additionally, however perhaps not the villages. I feel that’s why.

The presidential runoff is quick approaching. Do you suppose the opposition has the capability to return again from this?

They need to inspire their voters. One factor we noticed on this election is rising nationalism, particularly amongst youthful voters. I feel what the opposition is making an attempt to do proper now could be to attempt to cling on to this extra nationalist narrative. I feel that’s an enormous gamble, as a result of once they cling on to this extra nationalist narrative, then they’re going to lose [the ethnic minority] Kurdish vote.

Can the opposition compete with Erdoğan on nationalism?

In Turkey, now, we’ve two fronts: Erdoğan and the opposition. They’re each coalitions. In Erdoğan’s coalition, there are Kurds, there are Islamists, and there are nationalists who’re pro-Erdoğan. On the opposite aspect, you might have the identical: You could have Kurds, you might have nationalists, however they’re towards Erdoğan.

Erdoğan is a persona cult. He may very well be a nationalist right now, he may very well be an Islamist tomorrow. In three days, he may very well be a Communist, let me inform you. That’s what they’re making an attempt to battle towards. I feel that’s why it’s arduous.

Has the opposition chief, Kılıçdaroğlu, been capable of compete with Erdoğan’s cult of persona?

That’s what some folks criticize. Now we have this mayor of Istanbul, [Ekrem Imamoğlu]. He’s a well-known determine, he’s youthful, very energetic, energetic. Some individuals are saying that he ought to run for President reasonably than Kılıçdaroğlu. However then others say that Kılıçdaroğlu is a balancing determine, calmer. So now some individuals are saying if the mayor of Istanbul ran, he would have extra probabilities to win.

I feel that may very well be the case as a result of, if I used to be the opposition, if the mayor of Istanbul ran, I might have used the narrative that Mr. Erdoğan was advantageous, he constructed the bridges, roads, no matter. However now he’s older. Let’s go for a youthful various, a brand new begin. Why not? They might have used that. However Kılıçdaroğlu is across the similar age as Erdoğan.

The Group for Safety and Co-operation in Europe mentioned in its preliminary findings following the primary spherical of voting that though the election was largely free and devoid of media irregularities, it was marred by an unlevel enjoying discipline through which Erdoğan and his allies had “unjustified benefit.”

After all. They use all of the state [resources]. What Erdoğan did was he began handing out money, as a result of he can—elevating bureaucrats’ salaries, giving extra pensions. This at all times works.

If Erdoğan wins, the place do you suppose the Turkish opposition goes from right here?

One in every of Turkey’s benefits is that we’ve a really organized opposition. The oldest get together of Turkey, the CHP [Republican People’s Party], is the founding father of Turkey and major opposition get together. It’s organized. In order that they’re going to resume themselves. In all probability the management goes to vary. This can have political penalties, in fact, for those who misplaced. However they’ll renew themselves and they’re going to proceed. It’s what it’s. That’s how democracy works. It’s not like a three-day factor. It’s a long-term factor.

And if Erdoğan loses, would he bow out gracefully?

Effectively, he has to. What’s he going to do? He has to. However in fact, the mission of the opposition goes to be actually arduous as a result of the financial system is in ruins after which they’re going to need to principally take care of that. Even if you happen to begin right now, it’s not going to be okay for the subsequent two years. That’s what analysts venture. It’s going to be actually arduous remaking the establishments, as a result of as , in all autocratic nations, establishments are deeply broken. It won’t be a simple process for the opposition both.

Has this election modified something by way of how Turkish folks consider their democracy?

Youthful folks have a tendency to not vote for Erdoğan. There may be that change, clearly. Turkey is urbanizing actually quick, so youthful folks need extra democracy, they need one thing else principally. So there’s that change. It’s going to return.

However let’s see. Perhaps with this financial system, if [Erdoğan] doesn’t change his methods, I don’t know the way else he’s going to remain. I feel he’s going to have to vary his financial coverage. In 9 months, we’ve native elections.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

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Write to Yasmeen Serhan at yasmeen.serhan@time.com.

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