Electoral body denies request to ban AKP election ad with national, religious symbols

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) has denied the main opposition CHP’s request to ban the ruling AKP’s local election campaign film for featuring religious and national imagery. The electoral body banned another AKP ad in 2014 for the same reason.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) on March 6 refused an application by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to ban the local election campaign ad of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for featuring the Turkish flag and the Islamic call to prayer. 

The CHP’s YSK representative Mehmet Hadimi Yakupoğlu stated in the application that the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) was heard during a portion of the one-minute and 45-second ad, and sports uniforms with the Turkish flag were visible throughout the film.

The YSK bans the usage of the Turkish flag and religious symbols as campaign material for elections. 

The application reminded that the YSK banned another campaign film of the AKP in 2014 for similarly featuring national and religious elements. 

The application requested that the ad released on March 4 be pulled out of air on TV, radio, and the internet. 

As the local elections of 31 March approaches, the discrepancy in airtime between the ruling AKP and its opponents becomes apparent. The state-run broadcaster TRT was recently blamed for allocating mere minutes to CHP, and absolutely no time for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party candidates. 

The director of the TRT refused any allegations of preferential treatment and defended that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appearances as president and as leader of the AKP should be counted separately. 

Erdoğan touches upon the upcoming local elections in almost every speech and public appearance. Most recently, during the opening of a Transportation Ministry project in Istanbul, the president criticized the metropolitan ministry under the CHP administration and promised better service under the AKP’s candidate Murat Kurum. 

Earlier in the year, a fabricated campaign video for the main opposition's mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu began to circulate on social media, featuring an AI-generated voiceover. The video used an AI recreation of İmamoğlu's voice to state "We hijacked the highest number of metro projects (from the ruling AKP)."