Turkish government clamps down on opponents after poll

Friday 06/11/2015
With election over, there are signs that Ankara will stick to its tough line

ISTANBUL - Bolstered by a landslide election victory, Turkey’s government says it is reaching out to critics to heal the deep polarisation in society but observers are scepti­cal as pressure on journalists, Kurds and others was stepped up immedi­ately after the vote.
Following the triumph of his Jus­tice and Development Party (AKP) in November 1st parliamentary elec­tions, in which it captured 49.5% of the vote and 317 out of 550 seats in parliament, Turkish Prime Min­ister Ahmet Davutoglu promised the government would work for all citizens, not just AKP voters. “There are no losers in this election,” Davu­toglu said on November 3rd.
Critics accuse the government, however, of limiting free speech by moving against media critical of the AKP and of undermining the rule of law by firing and reassigning thou­sands of judges, prosecutors and police officers in recent years.
President and AKP founder Recep Tayyip Erdogan was criticised after he suspended peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ordered a military crackdown after militants started a new wave of at­tacks against security forces in July.
Observers of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said government critics had been at a disadvantage during the election period. “Media freedom remains an area of serious concern and the number of criminal inves­tigations of journalists and the clo­sure of some media outlets reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views and information,” the OSCE said.
With the election over, there are signs that Ankara will stick to its tough line even after the criticism and Davutoglu’s pledges of a softer approach.
Two days after the vote, two edi­tors of the Nokta magazine were put into pretrial detention over an article that declared the AKP win would be the “start of civil war” in Turkey.
Prosecutors ordered the detention of 44 officials and police officers suspected of being follow­ers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish Islamic scholar accused by the government of planning a coup against the AKP. The Turkish military also said its jets resumed bombing of PKK positions in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
AKP critics say those develop­ments showed Davutoglu’s prom­ises were empty. Turkey had “re­turned to its old state” after the election, the Cumhuriyet daily said on November 4th.
Nazli Ilicak, a former lawmaker and AKP sup­porter turned government critic, addressed Davutoglu in a column for the T24 news portal, telling the prime minister: “Your ears should hear what your mouth is saying.”
Perihan Magden, a Nokta con­tributor, said Erdogan does not tol­erate opposition. “I thought that, with a voter share of 49%, Erdogan would return to his more democrat­ic stance of the old days but he has no intention of doing so,” she said.