Ahead of Turkey's elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played an ace card to woo government employees. According to a report by Spectator Index, the President gifted a massive hike in the salaries of government employees. Notably, Erdogan gave a major increment of 45 per cent merely a week before the elections.
Turkey’s opposition has long said that the country’s elections are played out on an unequal playing field, claims often backed by international observers.
Opposition decries over election fairness
Media coverage stands out as the most obvious example of where Erdogan enjoys an advantage over his opponents, but factors such as the use of state resources while campaigning and the questionable interpretation of electoral law also feature.
Some 90% of Turkey’s media is in the hands of the government or its backers, according to Reporters Without Borders, ensuring overwhelming airtime for the president. Only a handful of opposition newspapers remain in print, most having transitioned to online-only editions.
During April, Erdogan received nearly 33 hours of airtime on the main state-run TV station, according to opposition members of the broadcasting watchdog. His presidential opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, received 32 minutes.
The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, last month launched legal action against broadcaster TRT for failing to screen its campaign video.
“Unfortunately, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation has moved away from being an impartial and objective institution and has turned into the Tayyip Radio and Television Corporation,” CHP lawmaker Tuncay Ozkan said.
Govt imposes restrictions on media
The remaining independent media also face increasing restrictions. Last month, broadcasting authority RTUK fined independent channels Fox News, Halk TV and TELE1 over news and commentary deemed a breach of regulations. Ilhan Tasci, an opposition-appointed RTUK member, said in all three cases the stations had been accused of criticizing or questioning the actions of the ruling party.
In a statement following the last presidential and general elections in 2018, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted that Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) enjoyed “an undue advantage, including in excessive coverage by government-affiliated public and private media outlets.”
The government’s reach has also been extended over social media, where many opposition voices have retreated.
(With input from AP)