Turkey’s voters will elect their mayors, city council representatives and mukhtars (leaders of neighborhoods and villages) come March 31. But how “free” will the elections be?
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coalition, formed between his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is branding the elections a matter of survival, assigning to it all the fervently militaristic attributes of a war. On Jan. 11, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu sent a memo to governors and security forces in 81 cities titled “Election Measures.” It warns, “Remarks [by anyone] that attempt to manipulate the results of the elections will not be allowed.” How this will be prevented isn’t specified, though the memo promises — or threatens — close monitoring.
A few critical voices remaining in the Turkish media asked what the government is really preparing for with this memo.
The most daunting aspect of the memo is the language it employs about those who are in charge of public safety. Along with official security personnel — which include the police, gendarmerie and coast guard — the memo calls for regular and volunteer security guards to be on duty.
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