Turkey, elections and the cat

Turks take to social media following local elections where opposition accuse the government of election fraud.

Fraud and irregularity claims have turned local polls results in Turkey into a cacophony after unofficial numbers were announced.

The polls on Sunday resulted in a landslide victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has been ruling the country for the last 12 years. The elections were seen as a vote of confidence amid corruption allegations, sensational security leaks and social media bans that have shaken the government.

The secular main opposition party contested the results in multiple locations, including the capital Ankara and the major southern city of Antalya. The AKP also appealed to the local electoral commission for a recount of votes in the southern city of Adana among others.

The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) says that hundreds of volunteers have been working for over 48 hours to check data for Ankara at the party headquarters and the ruling party keeps working on its cases.

The opposition supporters also claim that the AKP’s appeal for vote recount in certain places are approved right away and the votes are counted repeatedly, for instance in the provinces of Agri and Hatay, while the CHP’s applications linger in the pipeline or are rejected.

Turks, including the country’s talking heads, are highly polarised on social media following the elections as CHP supporters accuse the government of election fraud while AKP supporters blame the opposition for not accepting a democratic defeat.

Claims of election fraud have been shared on social media, including a photo which purportedly shows ballots in a garbage heap and another showing burnt ballots in toilet.

Discussions continue on Twitter as pro- and anti-government Turks keep their existence on the banned social media website through Virtual Private Networks and changes on their Domain Network Systems.

On Tuesday, riot police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government demonstrators outside the Supreme Electoral Council in Ankara, protesting against the government over the claims.

‘Cat in transformer unit’

On the day of the elections, blackouts were reported in tens of provinces including the largest three cities, namely Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Responding to a question on the blackouts in Ankara and Istanbul, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Tuesday that “a cat intruded a transformer unit”, breaking it. The statement created uproar and a source of fun among non-AKP voters.

The minister said there was an explosion on an electricity distribution cable in the central city of Eskisehir and storms in the southern regions, causing the blackouts on the election day.

Yildiz also made a metaphor between the opposition parties and students that come up with excuses for not studying enough.

Supreme Electoral Board President Sadi Guven tried to ease the tensions: “This is a legal process. We will wait and see. Citizens and political parties should remain calm.”

Erdogan traditionally addresses his supporters from the terrace of the AKP headquarters in Ankara following every election with a reconciliatory tone.

In his speech on the night of the last elections, he took a harsher rhetoric against his opponents.

“We will enter their lair,” he said, revisiting his previous words.

The prime minister was mainly targeting the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish cleric, that he holds responsible for the corruption investigations launched in December, and leaked phone recordings of him, his family members, his aides and businessmen close to him. Gulen’s followers are apparently highly influential in Turkey’s police forces and judiciary.

In the same speech, Erdogan also said, “Turkey has the democracy the West admires.”

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