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Triumphant and Intimidating
Published in Albawaba on 01 - 04 - 2015

Despite accusations of fraud and irregularities during the mayoral elections in Turkey, the difference between Erdogan's ruling AKP and opposition parties is not in the single.
"This is the wedding day of the new Turkey," Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told thousands of supporters celebrating early results that indicated his party claiming more than 43 percent of national vote in the March 30 local elections.
"Today is the victory day of the new Turkey, 77 million united and together as brothers."
The Justice and development Party (AKP) maintained its grip over the two major cities Istanbul and Ankara. In Istanbul, the AKP won over the main opposition Republican People's Party with more than 500,000 votes, allowing the incumbent AKP mayor Kadir Topbas to hold the mayoral office for a third term.
Ankara's race, on the other hand, proved to be one of the most intriguing races in the city's history. Earlier in the election day, with less than 20 percent counted votes, both CHP and AKP runners announced that they had won.
Later, the AKP's incumbent mayor seemed to be wining by a big margin over the CHP's candidate, however, the opening of ballot boxes that were in CHP's stronghold after midnight seemed to bring the CHP closer to a victory. Yet at the break of dawn the AKP maintained a slight lead after a controversial recount of votes in a well-known AKP stronghold in the city.
Many questioned the reason why ballot boxes from CHP's strongholds in Ankara, as well as other cities, were left for late night counting. Observers argue that it was a tactic to show an AKP lead that would disappoint observers and pushing them to leave without counting the remaining ballot boxes.
Angry supporters of the AKP were reportedly at the polling stations where ballot boxes from CHP's strongholds in Ankara were being counted in an attempt to block the counting process. However, supporters from the CHP, as well as the other opposition Nationalist Movement Party MHP, rushed to those stations to protect the ballot boxes and make sure they get counted and delivered.
Ankara-based photojournalist, Piero Castellano, gave Islamist Gate an account of what happened.
"[A] crowd of AKP supporters, allegedly guided by Gökçek's [AKP incumbent mayor] son Osman, gathered out of the school where votes were being counted, soon confronted by MHP and CHP supporters, both groups claiming ballot boxes were moved out of the school to avoid counting. Counting stopped until 5 a.m. The YSK websites went down. Gökçek had a meeting with Minister of Justice, then appeared with him and released a statement claiming victory, saying only 62 ballot boxes left to be counted. When counting resumed, in many ballot boxes there was not one single vote for CHP, a bizarre fact in a CHP stronghold."
CHP Ankara mayoral candidate, Mansur Yavas, announced on March 31 that his party would appeal as soon as results became official.
Several other allegations of misconduct were raised as counting started. Reports of electricity cuts throughout the day in different cities and provinces during the counting process raised many eyebrows.
Others accused the AKP of sending their "bullies" to intimidate observers. In several cities across Turkey, observers and volunteers were up until early hours of morning finishing up counting and keeping an eye on fairness of delivery.
However, many agree that despite those irregularities, the AKP has managed to win over the main opposition party CHP, and other parties, by an almost 20 percent margin. The AKP claimed a national average of 43 percent, while CHP was pushing a 28 percent average.
"Those claims could have changed the result in some cities, but let's face the truth: The difference between the AKP and others is not in the single digits," Murat Yetkin said in his piece for the Hurriyet Daily News on March 31.
Thus observers see the AKP's win in the local elections, dubbed as a vote of confidence for AKP by Erdogan, as a clear proof that last June's nationwide Gezi protests, the corruption scandal, the incriminating leaked recordings and the crackdown on social media, by banning twitter and YouTube, played little or no part in those elections.
"The AKP's victory Sunday reinforced to the West what was already known: the secular opposition in Turkey lacks organization, charisma and popularity," Jonathon Schanzer, the American scholar in Middle East studies, told Islamist Gate. "Mr Erdogan proved to the West that his base - the Anatolian heartland and the Islamists - has not wavered, despite the massive corruption charges hanging over his government."
Schanzer added that due to this victory, the west would have less leverage for pressuring Erdogan and his government to implement further needed-reforms.
During the early victory speech from the balcony of the AKP's election bureau, Erdogan, with his family members by his side, vowed to fight back his enemies who attempted a coup.
"They are worse than assassins [of the Middle Ages]. They are beyond them," he said. "Those who managed could flee. More can flee tomorrow. I have filed criminal complaints about some of them; I said they could also flee. As I have said, from now on, we'll walk into their dens. They will pay for this."
Erdogan's words are seen as an indication of further crackdown on the Gulen Movement followers within the state, led by the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan is accusing of staging the corruption investigation and the scandalous leaks.
Since the first arrests of sons of ministers and famous businessmen back in December, thousands of police chiefs and officers, judges and prosecutors, suspected to be Gulen sympathizers, have been dismissed or reassigned.
Two more elections are to follow with the first-ever presidential elections in August, followed by the parliamentary elections in June of next year. Erdogan hinted in his victory speech on March 30 that he would pursue the presidency.
What happens in the next round of elections? It's tough to predict, Schanzer said, the Gulen movement does not appear to be backing down.
"I expect more leaks and more damage to Erdogan's image. In response, I expect more crackdowns by Erdogan on the media and the opposition. Whether this helps him or hurts him in the next round is anyone's guess," He added.

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