Political parties in Turkey are supporting the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) decision to carry out a greener election campaign process for the upcoming local elections and they are ready to take similar steps to prevent pollution caused from traditional campaigning methods.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the chairman of the AK Party, announced on Thursday that for the March 2019 municipal elections the traditional methods of campaigning will be eliminated and instead be more environmentally friendly through the utilization of social media channels.
"We are completely leaving campaign methods that cause visual and noise pollution. We have decided to follow a campaign respecting the environment and people," Erdoğan said, calling on other political parties to give up old campaigning tools harming the environment and adopt new methods.
Other political parties, mainly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Good Party (İP), seem to also be eager in following AK Party's steps on the matter as they expressed their own views on the issue underlining that the parties will take their own measures too.
Sadir Durmaz, the vice chairman of the MHP, said that they support the president's call for a greener campaign period.
"We are against the visual and noise pollution that emerge during the election [campaigns] as well. We do not find the activities that disturb our people right," Durmaz said.
"During the election period, you see some streets where flags are on top of each other; they became unlivable due to noise also. We think that in such campaigns, we should not disturb our citizens in no way or terms," he added.
As part of traditional campaigning methods, parties would fill the streets with colorful flags, posters of the candidates with election buses constantly play campaign songs. Despite creating a unique election atmosphere in the country, these methods are considered as a nuisance by many. The flags and posters create visual pollution during and after the elections. They are far from having any aesthetic value as they hang between the buildings and more importantly fall onto the streets, causing pollution. Minivans that play campaign songs end up creating noise pollution when different campaign songs start merging with the others playing in close proximity.
"This approach would also benefit the national economy. The waste that emerges during the election campaigns would be prevented and serious savings would be achieved," Durmaz further highlighted.
"We have not had a talk on the matter yet," said Cihan Paşacı, the İP's spokesperson.
"Some steps can be taken by our party as well to leave these [traditional] methods behind. However, since in local elections the candidates are funding their own campaigning process, the party administration cannot intervene in that," Paşacı added.
"Unfortunately there are many disturbances during the election campaigning period," Paşacı acknowledged.
Erdoğan underlined that in order to prevent visual pollution, the party will only be allowed to display flags in the regions of party organizations and election coordination centers. The AK Party election buses will not be touring except at specific times set beforehand. Erdoğan also underscored that social media and other mediums will take the place of traditional campaign methods.
Currently, 4 billion people use the internet globally and 3 billion of them are social media users. In Turkey, the numbers are also high; there are 54.5 million internet users and 51 million social media users. Erdoğan himself is an active user of social media as he has over 13 million followers on Twitter.
"We want and support the usage of social media more. We also ask our candidates to put more emphasis on these channels," Durmaz said, implying that the MHP will also utilize social media more than ever during these elections.
When it comes to the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), however, the party officials had troubled finding a party authority to speak on the issue, directing from one to the other, which eventually left Daily Sabah with unanswered questions on the matter.
The first environmental law in Turkey was introduced in 1983. After the passing of the law, in 1991, the Environment Ministry, which later became the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, was founded.
In time, there have been some changes within the environment law, the biggest of which came in 2006. In 2006, the terms "sustainable environment" and "sustainable development" were added to the law. Some heavy sanctions were also imposed upon institutions causing environmental pollution.
The parties are also including environmental issues in their party programs and activities. Since it came to power in 2002, the AK Party has been known for its green policies aiming at increasing environmental sensitivity.
According to a report by the AK Party that explains the activities and performance of the government in the past decade, between 1992 and 2002, the government oversaw afforestation work in some 743,000-hectares of land. This number has increased six-fold between 2003 and 2017. During the last decade of the AK Party-led government, a 4.9-million-hectare area was used for forestation. The same report revealed that some 1.5 million hectares of new forests were also created in Turkey.
Since 1993, the CHP has had three separate party programs. In each of these programs environmental issues have been addressed. The latest party program from 2008, also include the environment under the "Social welfare state" chapter. It has nine pages and four sub-chapters: "Sensitivity to the environment," "policies to protect the environment," "global warming," and "the fight against pollution." It is stated that sensitivity to the environment is one of the priorities of the party and the "CHP is a party sensitive toward a green environment, nature and global warming."
In the MHP's party program, one and a half pages are on environmental issues under its own chapter. It is stated in the chapter that one of the main aims of the party is to bring environmental conditions to a livable level by constantly improving them.
When it comes to İP's party program, environment is included under the chapter "Natural life and Urbanism," and has a space that is a little more than a page. In the chapter, it is said that the right to have a healthy and balanced environment constitutes the basis of the party's environmental policy.