Fake posters attacking Ankara’s main opposition candidate reveal even more skullduggery in a Turkish election campaign
Personal attacks against Turkey’s national party leaders – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Devlet Bahçeli – have become almost the norm in this election campaign, but a series of posters in Ankara show the attacks can be just as vehement in local races.
The latest controversy was caused by posters that appeared overnight on bus shelters across the capital. They depicted Mr Yavaş and Hüseyin Aygün, a CHP MP for Tunceli, side-by-side with the arms aloft, showing the victory sign. Mr Yavaş’s hand is comically large – almost as large as his head. The slogan above reads: “We will govern together”. Next to the CHP logo, the strapline simply says “Vote CHP”. The poster is a clear personal attack on Mr Yavaş.
Mr Yavaş is a well-established politician on the right-wing. That is precisely why the CHP nominated him for mayor of Turkey’s conservative capital city. As a former MHP man, he is better placed than most to collect the anti-Erdoğan vote in Ankara in one place and challenge the incumbent AK Party mayor, Melih Gökçek.
The poster caused a stir because because the man Mr Yavaş is portrayed embracing, Hüseyin Aygün, is quite his polar opposite. An Alevi on the far left of the CHP, Mr Aygün represents everything a stereotypical MHP voter would detest: he comes from a minority group (he is an Alevi), he supports the Kurdish peace process, and he is fervently left wing.
The subtext is rather unsubtle: Mr Yavaş is not the man you think he is. Look at his associates. Don’t vote for him.
Hand larger than head
The CHP quickly denied it had anything to do with the poster and said its campaign workers were tearing them down wherever they could find them. Mr Yavaş himself appeared amused when he tweeted asking anyone making a “pirate poster to not make my hand larger than my head”.
Bir daha korsan afiş yaparken rica ediyorum elimi kafamdan büyük yapmayın lütfen… : )
— Mansur Yavaş (@mansuryavas06) March 10, 2014
But yesterday he told Kanal A, a local television station, that he was “uncomfortable” about appearing in the same photograph as Mr Aygün: “We might be from the same party, but we don’t need to have the same opinions”, he said.
So the poster has clearly made an impact, but who is actually responsible for them?
The obvious answer might be Mr Yavaş’s former party, the MHP. But Mr Yavaş and other CHP members believe it was produced by supporters of Mr Gökçek, who benefits from a split CHP-MHP vote.
‘Is Yavaş ashamed?’
Early on Tuesday morning, CHP campaigners say they spotted four people putting up more Yavaş-Aygün posters on bus shelters in northern Ankara. They called the police and two suspects were arrested. Press reports said the suspects’ car contained multiple copies of the offending poster alongside legitimate AK Party campaign posters.
Mr Gökçek has been coy over the case, accusing Mr Yavaş of trying to deceive MHP voters. “Is Mansur Yavaş ashamed of the CHP and Hüseyin Aygün? He is clearly ashamed of being on the left wing.”
With less than ten days to go, the Gökçek-Yavaş mayoral race in Ankara remains too close to call.