Wednesday, December 6, 2023

From voting to victory: A visual essay on the Turkish elections

Must Read

- Advertisement -
A youth climbs the top of a chopped tree to celebrate Erdoğan’s victory in Kayabaşı, Istanbul.

As a political anthropologist, I have observed and written about theories and practices of democracy across the continents – Australia, Europe, India, the USA and beyond. It is this very interest, which took me to a polling booth during the second round of the 2023 Turkish Presidential elections for which the voting took place on Sunday, 29 May. The aim of this visual essay is to document the process of actual voting and citizens’ participation therein, including their celebration of the outcome.

The result was announced within hours after the polling closed: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AK Party) defeated his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP). While Erdoğan received 52.18% of the total votes cast; Kılıçdaroğlu did 47.82%. Many analysts believe that with Erdoğan’s victory, Kılıçdaroğlu’s political career is almost over. It is important to note that Turkish citizens living abroad – a significant number of whom are based in Europe, especially in Germany – also cast their votes. While Western media like Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) seem unhappy with the result and are busy in promoting crass views that people chose a “monarchy” and that elections have been “definitely unfair and unfree,” people in Turkey celebrated Erdoğan’s victory with much enthusiasm, in some cases a bit awkwardly (see photo on the top).

For those familiar only with the British form of election, a key fact about Turkish election system is in order. Unlike the First Past The Post system in which a candidate with the largest number of votes (rather than an absolute majority) is declared a winner, in Turkey for her to be a winner a candidate must get more than half of the total votes cast. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, the top two candidates face each other again in a run-off election. This was the case this year, the first in Erdoğan’s long career.

A school in Fenertepe, Kayabaşı, İstanbul which served as a polling booth; this school is located in the district of Başakşehir, 33 kilometers south-east of the famous Taksim square and 28 kilometers south of the new Istanbul International Airport.
Women and men exiting and entering the polling booth in a sunless and somewhat cold weather; unlike Indian elections of 1990s that I witnessed, the scene at the booth was amicable.
A portion of the classroom of the primary school in Fenertepe, where citizens cast their votes; above the blackboard hangs the photo of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “the founding father” of the Turkish republic.
The ballot paper, inscribed with “Presidential candidates” atop, with photos and names of the two contestants; the circle below indicates the spot where voters stamp their choice.
The grey envelope in which the stamped ballot paper is placed; on the right is the logo of the Supreme Election Council, Country’s autonomous body, which conducts the elections.
The transparent ballot box/chest, Sandik, in which the envelope is placed; voters stamp the ballot paper inside make-shift dark blue curtains in a corner of the room. On the left to the box are two red stamps. In India of the 1980s-90s, the iron ballot boxes were non-transparent.
Honking their cars, people thronged to street to celebrate the election result. Most carried flags; while the red one is the Turkish national flag, the blue one (with the bulb sign) is of AK Party. Near Adnan Menderes Bulvarı, close to the community library, Başakşehir.
In celebration, a woman waves the Turkish flag standing from her car; only furlongs away from the millet (community) library.
A view of celebration, between Millet Bahçesi (garden) and Merkez Camii (mosque), Başakşehir; photo taken from the second floor of the nearby shopping complex.
Another view of the celebration, with Merkez Camii in the backdrop, Başakşehir.
At the venue of the celebration, a temporary installed screen displays “Century of Türkiye,” a slogan of the AK Party about its vision for the next century. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, a century ago.

A political anthropologist, Irfan Ahmad is professor of Sociology at Ibn Haldun University, Turkey. Until early 2022, he was a senior research fellow at Max Planck Institute, Gottingen, Germany. Most recently, he is the author of Religion as Critique, editor of The Nation Form in the Global Age: Ethnographic Perspectives, and co-editor of The Algebra of Warfare-Welfare: A Long View of India’s 2014 Election. He has been interviewed, inter alia, by Al-Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Frontline, The Hindu, New York Times, NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands), Sky News (Australia), and TRT World. Titled, “Drinking Secularism,” at the invitation of The Society for the Anthropology of Religion, American Anthropology Association, he delivered the 2023 distinguished Rappaport Lecture. He tweets @IrfanHindustan.

- Advertisement -
Irfan Ahmad
Irfan Ahmad
Irfan Ahmad a political anthropologist, is a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious & Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

Don't Miss

Related Articles