AKP’s İzmir candidate campaigns in university with 'encouraged' attendance

The main opposition CHP’s deputy for the Aegean İzmir province Deniz Yücel has criticized the ruling AKP’s İzmir mayoral candidate for using a university panel as a campaigning opportunity. Turkey's Industry Minister also joined the meeting, where attendance was mandatory for students. 

Industry Minister Mehmet Fatih Kacır (M), Alper Gezeravcı to his right, and AKP's İzmir mayoral candidate Hamza Dağ sit together at a panel in Ege University (Photo: Cumhuriyet Aegean)

Ozan Sürücü / Gazete Duvar

Deniz Yücel, deputy for the Aegean İzmir province from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on March 23 criticized the involvement of government officials in AKP’s mayoral candidates' campaigns. 

He targeted the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate for İzmir, Hamza Dağ, for attending a panel at the public Ege University along with government officials and astronaut Alper Gezeravcı, who became the first Turkish astronaut to visit the International Space Station in late January. 

Reportedly, the university president sent out a memo to all departments requesting attendance to be taken at the event, and for attending students to be granted a leave of absence from any of their courses, according to reporting by the daily Cumhuriyet Aegean.

The students felt forced to attend the talk because of the president’s memo, held the CHP deputy. 

The Industry and Technology Minister Mehmet Fatih Kacır also attended the event. Yücel said state officials could not attend campaign events in favor of any political party. 

“The AKP has not only mobilized all its deputies for the local election campaigns but also used public universities as campaign centers, subjecting hundreds of students and academics to their political propaganda,” held Yücel.  

He emphasized that all these instances violated all principles of fair elections. 

AKP has run a full-fledged campaign for the upcoming local elections of March 31, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally appearing in campaign rallies for his party’s candidates across the country. 

Meanwhile, the state channel TRT further unbalanced the playing field for the opposition parties. The channel has allocated almost no airtime to the mayoral candidates of any opposition parties while giving the majority of its attention to news coverage of AKP chair Erdoğan and its candidates. 

TRT’s director general Mehmet Zahid Sobacı has however denied allegations of unequal treatment and held that Erdoğan’s appearances as President and as AKP chair should be differentiated in such a calculation. Meanwhile, Erdoğan uses his platform as President to campaign for the various candidates of the AKP regardless of the nature of the event. 

He on a Feb. 26 opening ceremony for a Transportation Ministry project used his speech to criticize Istanbul’s current CHP mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. 

He on Feb. 3 also acknowledged the underlying preferential treatment the government showed to AKP mayors as he urged the residents of the quake-torn Hatay province to vote for AKP’s candidate if they wished to receive proper services. 

“Did Hatay receive anything? Now Hatay is miserable, it is poor,” asked the President, referring to the destitute state of the CHP-ruled province following massive destruction by the earthquakes.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)