AK Party’s ’parallel’ election campaign

Prof. Mumtazer Turkone
Prof. Mumtazer Turkone


Date posted: February 16, 2015

In Turkey, the term “pool media” refers to the pro-government media outlets which were created through funds raised by various businessmen to protect the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) interests.

There are seven national newspapers that fall into this category. When the news-oriented TV channels are added to this chorus, the ruling party ends up with a massive media power behind its election campaign. These media outlets sport similar headlines and publish special or confidential information leaked to them by the government authorities. One of their common denominators is that they publish three or four news stories about the so-called “parallel structure” — a term frequently used by government officials about the Gülen movement — every day. The war waged against the “parallel structure” with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in command and the AK Party lending full support has been being mediated by these media organs for about one year.

Here is an example from the Sabah newspaper’s Friday issue of these “war-oriented” news reports. The title of the news report: “Conspiracy foiled as parallel structure’s release plan blocked by ministry.” The first two sentences are: “The parallel structure’s plan to release the arrested police officers from prison was thwarted by the Justice Ministry. The ministry decided that criminal courts of the first instance cannot hear requests for appeal against decisions of criminal courts of peace.” The report is about the following development: The lawyers of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca and the police officers who have been in jail since Jan. 14, 2014 filed an appeal application with a higher court, i.e., the criminal court of first instance.

What they did consists solely of appealing to a higher court within the framework of the judicial system. But this appeal is marketed as a conspiracy by the parallel structure. Let me repeat this: An appeal application by lawyers is defined as a “conspiracy” and conspirators are described as the “parallel structure.” But there is more to it. The judicial objection procedure which is supposed to follow the “natural justice” principle was blocked by the government’s minister and the decision was given not by a higher court or the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), but by the ministry as a political authority.

The appeal petition becomes the “parallel structure’s conspiracy” and the Justice Ministry which is meddling with the judiciary in breach of judicial independence becomes the authority that foils that conspiracy. These arrests in question had been decided by the criminal courts of peace, which were invented to stop judicial investigations into the graft and bribery scandals that went public on Dec. 17, 2013. These courts are seen as the government’s tools to directly intervene with court decisions. The corruption charges were dismissed by these courts. These specially established courts sent Karaca, the head of Turkey’s major TV network, Samanyolu, to jail in connection with the script of a soap opera aired on one of the TV channels in that network. And the appeal petition is about his arrest as well. Under normal conditions, the decisions by these courts can be appealed with a higher court. What is not normal is the Sabah newspaper’s story.

Now imagine that similar stories are parroted ad nauseam until the elections. Thus, we have a ruling party that is building its entire election campaign on the war against the parallel structure. This campaign alone is not convincing, but when the state’s resources and media capabilities are mobilized, political polarization can be placed along this axis. The most obvious characteristic of this campaign is that it is like shadow boxing as real rivals are prevented from attending the boxing match. As it concentrates all its resources and power on the fight against an imaginary parallel structure, the AK Party does not feel obliged to compete with other parties. The parallel structure is a convenient rival as it can be defined and antagonized at will. You can make it disappear in an instant when you feel like it.

Even Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who initially didn’t use the “parallel” rhetoric very much, seems to have been mesmerized by its magic. The ruling party is like a ghostbuster that is fighting ghosts with unlimited media power at its disposal. There is only one problem: voters cannot vote for the parallel structure as the parallel structure does not enter elections.

Source: Today's Zaman , February 14, 2015


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