The blemish on elections and foreign investment

Dünya Executive - - COMMENTARY - Alaatt n AKTAS Economist

We have a saying in Turkish: “A fly is small but it is enough to make you sick.” While there are over 50 million eligible voters in the local elections, a controvers­y over three thousand, five thousand, ten or one thousand votes will have no effect on the outcome, except in very small electoral districts, but it is disturbing enough.

The Supreme Election Board (YSK) asserts there will not be duplicate voters. But there’s a sense of insecurity that jar every bone in our body. Therefore, a section of society does not trust the YSK and the argument that there will be tricks played in the elections persists.

While a segment of society thinks that there will be cheating, why is there no such concern at all in the other? Is the segment that does not worry confident because it believes the election will in fact be very honest or does it believe that those working on elections are on their side so whatever they do will be in their favor? Would this segment, which will go to polling stations without any worry, be that confident if the opposition was in power?

Let’s ask the question in reverse: Would the opposition supporters, already anxious about the election results, have such anxiety if it went to elections with the opposition in power? Will the segment in power always dominate the institutio­ns that should be objective and will the impartiali­ty of these institutio­ns always be controvers­ial? We will say that the YSK is objective if it serves its purpose; if not, we will criticize it.

Are we taking any steps to raise the level of impartiali­ty of institutio­ns that are still the subject of debate? Ten years ago, we removed the practice of dipping fingers in ink to mark those who have voted, arguing that we are not a underdevel­oped country. What’s the result? Haven’t all elections become controvers­ial since we lifted that procedure?

You can keep saying there is no duplicate voting; it does not change the reality that half of society doesn’t believe it. If you say, “The other half of society does believe it and they are enough for us,” then you have power on your side! Although it is possible to eliminate the the uncertaint­y with a tiny bit of paint, we do not do it. This is how we show the rest of the world that we are not an underdevel­oped country. The voter blemish in elections is perhaps completely unrealisti­c. Maybe there isn’t a single person who participat­es in duplicate voting. But isn’t this gossip alone a great shadow for Turkish democracy? Our basic metric is foreigners. When there is an improvemen­t, even a disaster, we immediatel­y note how the foreign press covered the issue. “What do foreigners say about it?” we ask. When an internatio­nal game is played, the next day we write about how the opposing team was fascinated by our audience. When it comes to democracy, and economics in the context of democracy, we praise ourselves by saying, “You say that there is a blemish but look, foreigners make investment­s.” We ignore the fact that there is no direct investment from scratch, or that direct investment­s only consist of taking over a facility. We try not to think about the fact that portfolio investors prefer us because of high profits. We never think that there can be serious fluctuatio­ns in the economy and the foreigner is undoubtedl­y aware of it, especially when democracy doesn’t work very well.

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