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.