Over the past weeks, it has become clear that the general public and, in particular, conservative voters were uninterested in the positive attributes that the opposition's joint presidential campaign sought to associate with their candidate. The sole remaining means to chip away at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's popularity and avoid a disaster for the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) opponents, therefore, relates to an exaggerated criticism of the front-runner which in turn often produces the reverse effect. It goes without saying that there are a lot of things one could criticize about Erdoğan, who has, more than once, acted in ways that the majority did not approve. Making absurd arguments based on extreme views, however, leads conservatives to rally around Erdoğan.
The AK Party's opponents, however, are currently plagued with a deep sense of desperation. They often claim that Erdoğan's vision document is irrelevant due to contradictions between his earlier actions and election pledges. Asked to provide details about these alleged contradictions, they identify three areas: Imposing a ban on Twitter, having "pro-liberty" columnists fired, and interfering with the independent judiciary. If you only have a superficial understanding of these issues, you might indeed voice these claims. But one has to assume that journalists typically know almost the entire truth, and considering all aspects together, the above strikes one as deliberate attempts at manipulation.
The government originally did not intend to ban Twitter but demanded that the company establish offices on Turkish soil to prevent tax evasion and future contempt of court violations. For a long time, Twitter downplayed the demands and disobeyed court orders while generating advertising revenue in Turkey. Following the ban, the company's representatives made several trips to Turkey and the disagreement has since been resolved.
Claims about journalists largely distort the facts as well. One such individual, Hasan Cemal, lost his job because he refused to remove a paragraph from his column where he called his boss a brown-noser. We know for a fact that Erdoğan hardly ever heard of a number of the journalists who lost their jobs. Surely enough, Erdoğan did interfere in the press on more than one occasion, but the news outlets in question were known supporters of his party and his comments fell on friendly ears. Meanwhile, two thirds of all media outlets in Turkey, whose market share reaches 75 percent , oppose the AK Party and there is no evidence that Erdoğan has interfered in any of these outlets whatsoever. To be sure, opposition outlets have also fired a number of journalists, but the AK Party's opponents find it more convenient to avoid such developments.
Interference in the judiciary is, of course, real but is not the entire truth. Even if the judiciary were completely independent of the government, the courts have clear ideological and sociological biases. Currently, the judiciary in Turkey remains under the influence of the Gülen Movement and, by extension is by no means impartial. As such, the government interferes with a politicized, not independent, justice system.
That being said, you have to ask the following questions if you are even a little honest: Have Erdoğan and the AK Party done nothing but the above? Does their role in launching and defending the Kurdish peace process amount to nothing? Who could possibly deny the progress that Turkey has made with regard to the freedom of expression when the country addressed all its past taboos? Can we ignore the significance of the social hybridization that various identity reforms facilitated? Or should we simply turn a blind eye to the government's efforts to bridge the gap between social classes, the expansion of the middle class across identity groups, the improving distribution of wealth, and the revolutionary effects of the periphery merging with the center?
None of us are required to like Erdoğan or the AK Party, and one who dislikes them cannot be expected to vote in their favor. But we have to acknowledge that distorting the facts and making manipulative assessments are hardly credible game plans, which cause more backlash than questions.
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