Why did local elections get so heated yesterday in Turkey?

By Rosie

 Many Turks around the world and in Turkey went from zero to 10 very quickly in their surprise, excitement, and expressed feelings of hope on social media and on the streets over the past 24 hours.

Due to voting fraud cases in the past, many people from different political parties in the opposition organized and pulled all-nighters as votes were counted and recorded.

Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir are the largest cities in Turkey, and votes showed in the early hours of the day that they are all now under CHP (Republic People’s Party). CHP has been the key opposition party losing most local and national votes since AKP rose to power in 2003.

In Istanbul, people took pictures of emptied billboards and posted them on social media. These billboards just a few hours earlier had posters preemptively thanking the people of Istanbul for choosing the government’s ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party).

Anadolu Agency delayed reporting voting results in Istanbul by hours, and people went on social media to accuse the Agency to overtaking political sides. Columnists declared AKP as the winning party on newspapers this morning, whereas the opposition party, CHP, actually ended up winning. Currently, many news channels are running panels wherein accusations are being made against CHP and its supporters for voter fraud. Twitter is trending with the hashtag “#HırsızVar” (there’s a thief,) which implies accusations of voter fraud against CHP and its supporters.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the new mayor-elect of Istanbul tweeted “Istanbul is HDP’s (People’s Democratic Party) gift to us.” This tweet alludes to HDP leaders’ request to vote towards strategic candidates in cities where HDP did not put forth a candidate. Selahattin Demirtas, co-president of HDP shared a thread of tweets on his feed three days ago (from jail,) urging voters to follow HDP’s strategic candidates in these cities. One of them was Istanbul.

In Izmir, the opposition party, CHP has been winning the vote for many years.

This comes six years after country-wide protests against authoritarianism and for better protection of freedoms across Turkey, which started out as an environmental protest in a central park, Gezi, in Istanbul.

Based on conversations I have with friends in Turkey, and honestly, from my Twitter feed, it seems like Turks around the world and in Turkey feel a glimmer of hope once again, and the democratic process feels like it’s a little more just and real in a long time.

Now, if only the journalists and nonviolent political prisoners can be freed from jail.

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