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Public sector trade unions continue their struggle following rigged election in Turkey

06 July 2018
The Confederation of Public Employees' Trade Unions (KESK) has published a press statement on the general elections which were held in Turkey on 24 June 2018. Despite rigged elections, KESK, together with other unions, will continue to struggle for labour, trade union and human rights.

We neither withdraw our demands nor stop our struggle! We will continue demand our rights and struggle for these rights!

The presidential and parliamentary elections, which were neither independent nor fair, were held on 24 June 2018 in other words just 1 month before the 2nd anniversary of the State of Emergency. Time has proven that the State of Emergency, which was declared on 20 July 2016, has been used to create a suitable atmosphere for a civilian coup. In addition to the State of Emergency, there were several initiatives to make an unbalanced propaganda in favour of the ruling party and to conduct smear campaigns against the oppositional parties and forces, and to accomplish perception operations. The sale of Doğan Media Group, which took place right before the elections, was one of these initiatives. Undoubtedly, the sale is also related to reinforce ideological hegemony and transferring wealth from one company to another one.

Justice and Ruling Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) block turned a deaf ear to oppositional parties’ calls and insisted on holding the elections under the State of Emergency circumstances. It is clear that the State of Emergency has served as a tool to ensure that the ruling party would win the elections.

The violations of rules and incidents on the elections day on June 24th revealed the reason why AKP has not lifted the State of Emergency. Holding elections under the State of Emergency demonstrates antidemocratic aspects of the elections and raises questions about the legitimacy in this respect.

No equal propaganda opportunities were provided to political parties. While oppositional parties’ dozens of events and demonstrations were banned or prevented, the ruling party was free to organise marches, demonstrations or distributing its propaganda materials. On the contrary, the public resources were used by authorities so as to support AKP campaign.

Facing massive arrest operations was another problem for oppositional political parties throughout the propaganda period. Oppositional parties’ activists were arrested by security officers for social media postings. In total, 5 people (4 of them during the propaganda period and 1 of them was on elections day) were killed in this period. Physical attacks on oppositional parties’ stands and offices were documented by human rights organisations.

Unlike previous elections, the Minister of Interior Affairs, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications did not quit their offices. Consequently, the Minister Mr Süleyman Soylu presented a picture according to which the ruling party is the victim and the oppositional parties are aggressive. Polarisation and tension were intentionally increased by authorities. Nationalism and chauvinism were part of the ruling party’s propaganda.

Another injustice is related to the profile of public officers appointed to polling stations. Most of these public officers are the member of pro-government trade unions since KESK members’ applications were rejected by the public authorities. Dismissed KESK members had no chance to submit their applications in this aspect.

In spite of all these injustices, pressure and smear campaigns, thousands of people followed oppositional parties. These people conducted a campaign and joined demonstrations. The fear has not become dominant among oppositional activists. As a result of these campaigns, people stood together to pass the 10% threshold, which is antidemocratic and harms representative democracy, and to promote peace, democracy, social justice for everyone in this society. Certainly, people were active and at least 50% of the society came together to win the elections in 2018. Our hope and motivation for a determined struggle are based on these facts.

AKP and MHP block declared the triumph of elections even before the counting process was completed by the Supreme Board of Elections. On the other hand, AKP lost majority in the parliament for the first time since it has come to power in 2002 that means 16 years.

Political parties and civil society organisations and platforms (e.g. Adil Seçim Platformu/Fair Elections Platform) expressed their concerns about fraud and manipulations in the elections. People need to get answers to their questions or be satisfied with the whole election process.

What Turkey held on June 24th went beyond general elections. In fact, it was a choice between institutionalisation of the de facto one man rule and democratic developments. It seems, unfortunately, the former won this time.

A new presidential system has come into force in Turkey. That means the regime back to 1923 is over now. This new presidential system has been designed according to the “Reis [President]” needs. Thus, separation of powers is has been abolished by the constitutional changes. All powers are centralised in the president’s office. Lifting the State of Emergency becomes meaningless for the centralisation of power and having no checks and balance system any longer.

The elections demonstrate that capitalists have no interest in democracy. Both domestic and international capitalists continued to support the ruling party for their profits. What important for the capitalists is not democracy but their profit. Strikes were banned thanks to the State of Emergency. Capitalists are interested in outsourcing, sub-contracting, precarious forms of employment.

It is certain that none of these pressure forms are new to us. We, as workers and trade unionists, have been facing similar problems for a long period. As a result of the change in the administration system, de facto forms of pressure will turn into official policies and practices.

Nothing has changed in our programme and determination. We did struggle for labour, trade union and human rights in the past. We will continue to struggle for labour rights, dignity, human rights, democracy and peace.

The new regime’s main characteristic is fascism and struggle against fascism cannot be limited to opportunities and tools at the Parliament. We are not pessimistic about our future since at least half of the society did not approve the new regime. People voted against the new regime despite all types of repressive policies and practices. Solidarity among the social actors, groups and segments of the society raised our hopes.

This solidarity should be developed in all levels of the struggle. The Need for a joint struggle for labour, democracy, peace, and secular life style has become clear.
Employees, who established trade unions under 12 September 1980 military coup circumstances and legislative bans, shall be surrendered to new regime’s repressive policies. However, employees will continue to struggle for the country’s future, next generations’ well-being, freedom, democracy, and secular life style.

We neither withdraw our demands nor stop our struggle. KESK is relentless in its struggle for the objectives that the executive committee has announced on 28 May 2018.


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