By Okan Altıparmak
What’s more normal than a tight race going into a two-way political contest, or even a race with a multitude of parties? “The polls show a tightening race” or “The two campaigns run neck-to-neck” are the headlines to which we have been accustomed since our childhood.
Not when it takes place in Turkey… For the mainstream media the race does not tighten in Turkey. Instead, Turkey is divided. In fact, Turkey is always divided when the elections or referendums approach. Because to the media, it appears as though Turkish people must be divided at all costs. Why?
Turkish voters have different political preferences as all people in all nations do. Nonetheless, while people have the luxury of becoming engaged in tight races across the globe, it seems Turks must be divided.
Going into today’s all-important constitutional referendum, the “Yes” and “No” campaigns in Turkey are again not neck-to-neck, instead Turkey is once again “divided.”
When the USA recently held a close Presidential election and the UK a tense Brexit referendum, neither country was perceived as “divided;” they had tight races where the campaigns ran “neck-to-neck.”
The race for first round of the 2017 French presidential election to be held on 23 April 2017 is “tightening” as well. But the French, of course, are not divided.
Because they do not have a “divider” running. Turkey used to have tight races until 2002. Turkey was then forced to be divided every election in the last fifteen years.
The dividing factor that emerged in Turkey is the islamist party because it seems islamism needs to divide to exist. Islamism, or political islam as one form of it, need to divide the people as seculars and pious Muslims, an presumption that is misleading as in reality, you can be both pious and secular (meaning “believe in the separation state and religion” while being religious).
An islamist party needs, of course, the willingness and assistance of the international media to support the divisive narrative and disseminate it. Without the division, islamism cannot pretend it is the religion of Islam. It must refuse the reality that one can be both religious (Muslim) and secular simultaneously. Islamism imposes an “all or nothing” approach to artificially tilt debate in its favor; and to achieve this purpose, it must manage perceptions and hence influence the public opinion via the help of the media.
Today, the Turkish Republic will hold a referendum to decide whether it wants to remain as a Republic striving to be democratic or slide back into a tribal sultanate like the Arab monarchies in the Arabian peninsula. The outcome of the tight race will be determined by the more religious Turks who also believe in the separation of state and religion, overcoming the false narrative of “the country divided”… barring any islamist interference with the vote, which is always possible with “the means justifies the means” mentality.
The outcome is most likely to be decided by voters like this woman who has always been an Erdoğan voter. She explains why she will vote “No” in today’s refendum, showing us all how common sense unites while fanaticism fueled by propaganda divides:
The critical question is whether islamism can survive where divisiveness does not exist.