Are Turks Multiplying like Rabbits?

I pointed this out yesterday, but I am worried that the people who need to be paying attention to this–that is to say, the people who were caught completely unawares by the Arab climate change–just won’t notice this story or its significance. The Turkish columnist Yusuf Kanlı has helpfully written about it today in English, so anyone who tells you after the election here on June 12 that he or she had no way of knowing that this might be a problem is simply, flat-out incompetent and needs immediate firing.

The sudden, massive increase in registered voters here is something that anyone concerned about Turkey or the region needs to be looking at with grave concern:

This issue, which somehow escaped attention of all of us, was brought to the forefront by Bülent Tanla, a former politician and a pioneer of public opinion polls in Turkey. Only last year at the Sept. 12 referendum, the number of eligible registered voters was around 49 million and in 2007 it was 42 million and in 2002 it was 41.4 million. In 2010 and 2011, it all of a sudden reached 49 and 52 million, respectively. How? Are Turks multiplying like rabbits? Particularly, how have Turks multiplied by three additional million since September 2010, resulting in the number of eligible voters increasing from 49 million to 52 million? What has happened? Or, has someone placed in his pocket in advance some 10 percent of the vote in case of any emergency? It smells bad, does it not?

Yes, it smells very bad. I’m going to spell this out very slowly and patiently not for the benefit of Ricochet members, who know a lot about Turkey, but for the benefit of everyone else in the world who is going to profess utter astonishment when the likely consequences of this barely-noted story are suddenly on the front page of their newspapers.

In fact, let me appeal to another Turkish columnist, Semih İdiz, who sums it up with the headline A Dangerous Brew: 

Turkey and, in particular the Justice and Development Party, or AKP – with special focus on Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – is receiving accolade after accolade in the international media these days, both East and West. The references are mainly due to the country’s rising regional role, with the hope often being expressed that it can play a moderating role by providing an example based on its own democratic and economic successes, which are far in advance of what we see in the Middle East. 

It is not my intention here to debate whether these accolades are realistic or stem more out of wishful thinking in the face of developments whose direction no one can predict. I intend instead to ask whether those who are following Turkey these days have a proper idea of what is happening in Turkey itself where a brew of secularism, Islamism, and nationalism – both Turkish and Kurdish – are providing a dangerous mix that is dividing the country such as it has never been since the Republic was founded in 1923. …

The clear inference to be drawn from the unprecedented ugly and below-the-belt campaigning that is currently under way is that Turkey’s “post-modern civil war” over gaining control of the middle ground mentioned above is only going to get worse after the elections. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not following developments in this country properly and seeing things for what they are.

Again, I’ll put this in really clear terms. Why are elections good? They are good not merely because it’s nice to think that people have a voice in choosing their own governments. They’re good because when they work properly, they allow for peaceful transitions of power, and they endow governments with popular legitimacy. The greater the social strains and political divisions in a society, the more important those “peaceful” and “legitimate” parts become. You can call an election a “post-modern civil war” if you like the term, just remember that there’s still a world of difference between that and a “pre-modern civil war,” or God forbid a “modern civil war.” 

Ten million extra voters raises huge questions about what’s been going on–enough to wonder whether the government that’s about to be elected will be seen as legitimate.

This country can’t take that. It just can’t.

The world can pay attention to this now, or it can pay attention after June 12. It’s going to end up paying attention one way or another. A massive show of international solidarity with Turkish voters, interest in the fairness of this election, and defense of every Turkish citizen’s right to vote–but only once–might actually make people who think they can get away with fiddling here and there realize they can’t get away with it, because too many people are watching. Once it’s been done, though, it will be a hundred times harder to walk that cat back. 

Whatever the outcome of the elections, if they’re free and fair, I’ll basically shrug my shoulders: You voted for it, you live with it. But I won’t shrug my shoulders at massive fraud. No one here deserves that. 

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More by Claire Berlinski

  1. Claire Berlinski
    C
    John Lamoreaux: But I don’t get it… Suppose there has been an attempt to rig the election. Aren’t the polls consistently showing AKP 20+ points ahead of CHP? It seems a huge risk to take, just to claim a massive mandate rather than just a really big one. · May 31 at 12:46am

    Do note that all I know is that the number of registered voters has vastly outpaced what you might reasonably expect–I’ve no evidence that any one party is behind it, and to suggest that would be to go completely beyond what I know. 

    But yes, of course there’s a reason to want a massive mandate: To change the constitution without needing any kind of inter-party consensus. That could well translate into “power forever.” And I don’t rule out the possibility that the opposition parties could be playing dirty–not at all. “Chicago” is the right allusion.  

  2. Okan Altiparmak
    John Lamoreaux: Re “amazing reproductive boom” in the early 1990s –

    The new numbers can’t be based on demography. Turkey’s fertility rate was dropping precipitously from 1990 to 1995 — likely encouraged by a beastly economy and hyperinflation.

    (Perhaps the Interior Ministry’s demographers accidentally multiplied by the weekly inflation rate in 1993, when they were supposed to use the annual TFR.)

    But I don’t get it… Suppose there has been an attempt to rig the election. Aren’t the polls consistently showing AKP 20+ points ahead of CHP? It seems a huge risk to take, just to claim a massive mandate rather than just a really big one. · May 31 at 12:46am

    Most polling firms only poll for the ruling AKP and are AKP cronies, designed exactly for you to think the election results are a foregone conclusion. The AKP seems to have a solid 30% who will vote for them no matter what happens (as dangerous as this may be). The rest is up for grabs in a climate where hardly anyone except fanatical AKP supporters and AKP cronies appear to be happy with the high unemloyment and high per capita debt in the country.

  3. Claire Berlinski
    C

    The other major point is that you need to cross the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament. Parties that receive less than 10 percent of the vote don’t get in, and have to allocate most of their seats to the winning party. You can run various scenarios here to see how much of the popular vote you’d need to get to have a majority or a supermajority in parliament. 

  4. John Marzan

    Looks like the voter list is bloated. Can Turkey’s Election Commission be trusted to run an honest and fair elections?

  5. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    HalifaxCB:  Well, I know almost nothing about Turkey, except what I’ve read here (and which I greatly appreciate, it’s totally ignored in most of our press). Pike makes a good point, but I would suggest even more studying Chicago politics (or the politics of any big American city) in late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. According to Wikipedia (ok, I know it’s a really weak source!) Turkey is both growing and urbanizing rapidly. On top of that, I assume communications (especially cell phones and the internet) are spreading at a rapid rate, and all parties are learning fast how to register voters. Plus there seem to be some very divisive issues voters can get passionate about. So all in all, you should be seeing some sharp rises in registration. But of course the same climate facilitates corruption, just like the States in an earlier period. In the long run it did pretty much work out for the States (not perfect, but better than most). I hope Turkey is as lucky. · May 30 at 10:42pm

    Edited on May 30 at 10:43 pm

    This has not worked out so well in Chicago itself.

  6. Herkybird

    So how does this explosion in the voter-rolls tie in to the abrupt and unexpected cancellation, in mid-exercise – of the Sea Wolf Naval Maneuvers in the Aegean?  Is this, in turn, fallout from the so-called “Sledgehammer” investigations?  I guess you’ve got me hooked on the Conspiracy Game.

  7. Mert Nomer
    But I don’t get it… Suppose there has been an attempt to rig the election. Aren’t the polls consistently showing AKP 20+ points ahead of CHP? It seems a huge risk to take, just to claim a massive mandate rather than just a really big one. · May 31 at 12:46am

    It would be a little bit hard to explain but i will try… As we know in last election only 3 Parties were able to pass the undemocratic %10 threshold. AKP, CHP, MHP and independent candidates group DTP. AKP had enough majority to make Constitutional amendments alone. 

    Due to polls now AKP is behind in votes compare to last elections and CHP has more votes than previous elections. MHP seems like loosing a small percentage too.

    Due to most of the polls AKP won’t be able to make Constitutional amendments alone which is i think a big handicap for AKP because they mostly dont like consensus based decision making. 

    These 10 million extra voters means 1 million more votes to pass threshold. If somehow MHP would stay under threshold, due to our electoral system AKP would again have enough majority to make amendments alone. 

  8. Mert Nomer

    Of course last thing but not least is legitimacy problem. Between 2007 and 2011 electors increased 10million. This doesn’t look real. Neither Turkey’s Statistic Organization nor General Directorate of the Cencus proved 10 million difference.

    Also Supreme Committee of Elections haven’t made any explanation till now.

    If it was a calculation error in 2007 than power in party at the moment does not have legitimacy if it is a calculation error now than this elections will not be legitimate.

  9. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Herkybird: So how does this explosion in the voter-rolls tie in to the abrupt and unexpected cancellation, in mid-exercise – of the Sea Wolf Naval Maneuvers in the Aegean?  Is this, in turn, fallout from the so-called “Sledgehammer” investigations?  I guess you’ve got me hooked on the Conspiracy Game. · May 31 at 5:19am

    Once you start, it’s hard to stop. I’m baffled by the Sea Wolf business. (Okan, Mert–got a guess?) I don’t think that’s directly connected to Sledgehammer, but then again, I keep asking myself how they can pull off any kind of military operation when the very people who might know how to plan them are in jail. That’s speculation only. I have no special insight into this one. 

  10. Talleyrand

     It’s the result of last weekend’s Rapture Claire. The dead have risen in Turkey, like they do in wards of Chicago, or the electorate of inner city Melbourne. And their first order of business is to vote early, and often.

     How do you say “rotten boroughs” in Turkish , Mr Bill Walsh?

  11. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Talleyrand: 

     How do you say “rotten boroughs” in Turkish , Mr Bill Walsh? · May 31 at 8:02am

    Edited on May 31 at 08:06 am

    “Ankara.”

  12. Pike Bishop

    Anybody been studying in Chicago recently? 

  13. John Lamoreaux

    Mert, thanks. I see now how this would work, esp re the constitution.

    (Data for the following: http://www.idea.int/vt/country_view.cfm?CountryCode=TR)

    To be sure, the numbers post-2007 are a dramatic change. Is it linked to the introduction of Mernis, the new system for voter registration? I’m having trouble finding independent information on it. It’s odd that it’s under Ministry of the Interior, rather than Elections Board.

    Was Mernis already in place for the 2007 election? I hope not…

    The real anomaly isn’t the post-2007 numbers, but 2007 itself. From 2002 to 2007 there was an increase of only 1M in registered voters. This makes no sense. Around 5M young voters should have been added during those years.

    Extrapolating from the 1980s and 1990s, the 41M for 2002 looks right. The 42M for 2007, however, should be nearer 46M or 47M, while something around 51M or 52M would be correct for the present.

    Voter turnout for 2002 also seems screwy.

    Actually, even if we factor in emigration and problems for Turks abroad to vote, the whole decade seems screwy.

  14. Deleted Account

     Well, I know almost nothing about Turkey, except what I’ve read here (and which I greatly appreciate, it’s totally ignored in most of our press). Pike makes a good point, but I would suggest even more studying Chicago politics (or the politics of any big American city) in late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. According to Wikipedia (ok, I know it’s a really weak source!) Turkey is both growing and urbanizing rapidly. On top of that, I assume communications (especially cell phones and the internet) are spreading at a rapid rate, and all parties are learning fast how to register voters. Plus there seem to be some very divisive issues voters can get passionate about. So all in all, you should be seeing some sharp rises in registration. But of course the same climate facilitates corruption, just like the States in an earlier period. In the long run it did pretty much work out for the States (not perfect, but better than most). I hope Turkey is as lucky.

  15. Claire Berlinski
    C

    I hope so, too. 

  16. John Lamoreaux
    Okan Altiparmak

    the high unemployment and high per capita debt in the country

    From the Turkish press, one won’t know that the economy’s a rutting house of cards: AKP’s Potemkin prosperity.

    (When I’m ready to take over the world, first thing I’ll do, too, is buy the press.)

    Is it now just the Gulf’s yeşil sermaye that’s keeping things afloat? A billion here and billion there — suddenly appears on the books … or maybe it was from tourism. Can anyone now even guess the total? Or what’s being asked in return?

    How much does a Flotilla cost these days?

    Oil’s up, CAD’s a awful mess, and still it’s smiles.

    Younger Turkish friends often know differently.

    They can’t find jobs and are having to emigrate. (Texas calls dibs on the engineers.)

    They can’t afford to get married — the real cause of the plummeting birthrate.

    The butcher’s bill will eventually come due. And unless the AKP is planning to change the rules — perhaps they are — how can they think they won’t be held to account, by both the market and the country?

  17. John Lamoreaux

    Re “amazing reproductive boom” in the early 1990s –

    The new numbers can’t be based on demography. Turkey’s fertility rate was dropping precipitously from 1990 to 1995 — likely encouraged by a beastly economy and hyperinflation.

    (Perhaps the Interior Ministry’s demographers accidentally multiplied by the weekly inflation rate in 1993, when they were supposed to use the annual TFR.)

    But I don’t get it… Suppose there has been an attempt to rig the election. Aren’t the polls consistently showing AKP 20+ points ahead of CHP? It seems a huge risk to take, just to claim a massive mandate rather than just a really big one.

  18. Mert Nomer
    John Lamoreaux: Mert, thanks. I see now how this would work, esp re the constitution.

    To be sure, the numbers post-2007 are a dramatic change. Is it linked to the introduction of Mernis, the new system for voter registration? I’m having trouble finding independent information on it. It’s odd that it’s under Ministry of the Interior, rather than Elections Board.

    Was Mernis already in place for the 2007 election? I hope not…

    Your welcome.

    Mernis used also in 2007 elections. 

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