Having successfully won the local elections in Turkey with a very comfortable margin, the AK Party government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could justifiably expect a period of lessened political tensions. It seems the political stress will continue because the opposition has enormous problems in accepting the magnitude of its electoral defeat. There were a number of municipalities where the counting of the ballots was extremely close, especially in the capital Ankara, where the immovable former Mayor Melih Gökçek secured a very tight victory against his opponent, former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) candidate Mansur Yavaş, this time participating in the elections under the banner of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Similar very close contests took place in Yalova, a small seaside town near Istanbul, and Üsküdar, a very old and traditional district in Istanbul. Counts in Ardahan in eastern Turkey next to the Armenian border and Ceylanpınar near the Iraqi frontier in the southeast were also close.
In all of these cases, the Turkish electoral system worked fine, in a very transparent way, since 1950. No election has been immune to incidents in any democratic country. Still, Turkey fares much better than most democratic countries when it comes to organizing fair and participative elections. This time, the participation attained a record turnout, well above 85 percent, with a visible motivation on the part of the population of big cities who put up a totally civilian initiative to nominate volunteers at the ballots to help the officials and party representatives. A record number of these voluntary observers totaling 30,000 were present at the ballots and the counting of the votes in Istanbul alone. Despite this huge mobilization and a sound electoral system, only minor incidents were reported. On top of it, no international observer or institution saw any bias in numerous Turkish elections since 1950.
So, why the vehement claims that some electoral results were biased, whereas the overall picture is evident, clear and final?
For mainly two reasons: First, there is immense propaganda set up by the pirate opposition, namely the Gülen Movement, to depict Turkey as almost a dictatorship of rotten oligarchs with no popular support. This is repeatedly picked up in foreign and social media, so much so that some parts of the population and the majority of foreign observers and analysts started to put faith in such information. Their surprise was immense and there is very difficult self-criticism to carry out. An easier path is to continue to believe in the total demise of the Turkish electoral system, even if no tangible evidence shows such degeneration. The institutional opposition fell into the same trap by espousing the "scandal agenda" of the Gülen Movement and taking for granted the fabricated taped conversations leaked through social media. Only now are they starting to understand how erroneous this strategy was, but for them the self-criticism will take some time.
Second, the havoc created by the Gülen Movement within the state administration and more precisely the incredible spying operations of the recent week very adversely affected the confidence of average citizens vis-à-vis state authorities. This is a very dangerous evolution and no democratic political organization can see that happening without being deeply alarmed. It is now a must for political parties in the opposition to decide whether to play the democratic game by the rules or to expect dividends from the scorched earth policy of the Gülen Movement. A number of upcoming elections will prove, if need be, that the Turkish electoral system is functioning fine. However, if the social contract between the citizen and the state is damaged, no opposition movement will benefit from of it.