Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009 - 1 comment

Off to the Ballot Boxes

"Election season" came to a close last Sunday. For more than a month leading up to the municipal elections, campaign-mania filled the streets with its flags, and the air with its patriotic, herald-the-virtues-of-the-candidate songs. Slogan stickers and politicians' faces were plastered on every available surface. Strings of political banners hung from every lightpost and across every intersection. And "campaign mobiles" - vans and buses sporting loudspeakers on top - trolled every neighbourhood blaring songs destined to woo our hearts and win our votes. (Charming until you get stuck between two competing vans at a traffic light and nearly go deaf!)

Zeki Basaran, the CHP (Republican People's Party) mayoral candidate for our municipality was my personal favourite....purely cuz he had the catchiest song. Seriously, it got stuck in my head back in February and hasn't left yet. I have the whole thing nearly memorized and like to fill any silence by belting it out. Always gets a good reaction. :) Click here to hear the song that has become the neverending soundtrack to my days. Zeki lost the race, but he still lives in my heart.

It's been intriguing to observe the campaign phenomenon here and compare it to how things work at home. The biggest difference I noticed is the fact that there are no political commercials on TV. I wonder if there is a law against that, or if it is just too expensive? (Can't cost any more than the billions of lira in gas they must spend driving those musical vans around all day....) And no lawn signs. Probably cuz here there is no such thing as a lawn. :) I haven't fully sorted out the song thing, but my hunch is that it could be a literacy thing - if the housewife in the kitchen isn't reading the newspaper, get your slogans and promises stuck in her head in the form of a song. (Smart.) Or maybe, like the flags flying so thick you can hardly see the sky, it's more of a show of presence and power. Not sure. Either way, I like the festive atmosphere it creates.....except if I am trying to concentrate on anything! :)

Between the drive-by campaigners and the politicians coming door to door, I racked up quite a collection of election paraphernalia - flags, posters, air fresheners, even flowers from a muhtar (like a neighbourhood leader) candidate. Being that I can't vote here, I feel no need to be loyal to one particular party and proudly display it all in my room.

Many a politician has been accused of buying votes - particularly questionable was the ruling party's tactic of passing out washing machines in towns in the country's poor southeast. Unfortunately for them, it didn't seem to make a difference at the polls in those districts. (And the ironic part of it all is that many of those people may not even have electricity in their homes. Guess they can always use their new appliances as storage cupboards.) In our neighbourhood, word on the street is that our (now re-elected) muhtar passed out cash in order to secure votes. I was kicking myself cuz when he came to our door, he asked how many eligible voters lived in our house, and I said none. Bummer - maybe I coulda scored some money! :)

I was up in Istanbul on the day of the election, and it was interesting to get a different perspective and see which parties were popular up there that aren't popular where I live - particularly cuz I spent most of my time in a very religiously conservative part of the city. I was fascinated by the fact that when we went to bed on Saturday night, the streets were still filled with flags, but when Election Sunday dawned, they had all miraculously vanished. (It is illegal to campaign on election day.) Somebody was working hard all night long!

This was the first time I had seen an ad for a female candidate. (Centre.) She was running for city council in a very religious district. This both surprised and intrigued me.

Not sure I would vote for this guy - he apparently wasn't too concerned with keeping the neighbourhood clean. I saw literally tens of thousands of his little cards all over the district.

Anyhow, the votes have been counted and the dust has settled. Re-elected leaders are breathing a sigh of relief and new ones are gearing up for the task ahead. Time will tell if they will fulfill all their bright campaign promises. I won't give you all the stats cuz you won't care, but I've been avidly reading election articles and analyses and trying to sort out who's who and the breakdown of which party won where and what it all means. It really does give one a sense of belonging to know what's going on, and it helps me feel more "Turkified" when I can discuss current events in a semi-educated manner. I may not be able to vote, but I enjoyed getting caught up in election-fever. And, hey, I got an air freshener out of the deal!


way to go for you jumping head first into election season, a very daunting task!