A fair where politics are anything but free .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Democratic elections should always be free and fair. But at an "election fair" at Istanbul yesterday, price of campaign tools was steep.

Making a strong impression is always important in political campaigns. Candidates can be king or crumb depending on their talent for convincing the public to vote for them.
According to estimates, the market for campaign-related business is worth approximately $3 billion. Firms that produce flags, compose campaign songs, rent out buses and develop software projects are just some that seek to take a share of this market. Before Wednesday, however, they did not have an event to promote their ideas, goods and services for assisting candidates in their campaigns.
But a new fair aims to capitalize on the activity’s gadgets, technologies and posters. The "Election Preparations, Advertisement and Promotion Fair" has opened in Istanbul with stands representing 120 firms and will run through Sunday evening.
"There is everything in this fair that a candidate needs for election campaigns," said Hüseyin Aslan, chairman of the Demos fair organization, adding that more than 40,000 people visited the fair in its first two days. "Also, most of the products are locally manufactured."
According to Aslan, Demos’ new fair has provided a new opportunity by opening the world’s first election fair. After Istanbul, the fair will open its doors in Ankara on Jan. 15, which is the deadline for announcing candidates for the March 29 local elections. He said products and services available at the fair would be effective in election campaigns for mayor, council member and village headman candidates.
Politicians shopping for elections
Making a strong impression is always important in political campaigns for candidates. The market for campaign-related business is worth approximately $3 billion. The new fair, which opened in Istanbul aims to capitalize on the activity’s gadgets, technologies and posters.

Before the fair kicked off, Demos sent 500,000 invitations and 10,000 posters to the head offices of political parties and municipalities. "Seventy percent of the stands were reserved within a month after we announced the launch of the fair," said Aslan.

The local elections in March will have participants from more than 2,000 metropolitan sub-provincial municipalities and mayor candidates for 80 metropolitan municipalities.

"There are 3 million candidates for a total of 500,000 seats in the elections," said Aydın, who added that Demos saw their opportunity having the idea that there should be a fair for election campaigns in which thousands of people compete.

Upon entering the fair, one gets the sense the elections are already taking place. There are are photograph studios, speaking courses, advertisement agencies, promotion firms, plaque and badge firms, printing press, flag, platform and stand producing companies, sound and textiles companies and decoration firms. There are also seminars and courses for those who wish to learn or improve their body language, public speaking and the art of eloquence. The small but interesting items are much more affordable compared to the huge trucks or technological gadgets. Sewing sets, glasses, slippers, lemon squeezers, lighters, flasks, automobile perfumes, Web site designers, towels, aprons and umbrellas are among the goods that surprise visitors.

Pouring money into elections
Local election spending comes at a crucial point for Turkey, as economic balances remain upset due to the effects of the global financial crisis. The Turkish lira has dropped more than 18 percent against the dollar since Oct. 1, while the Istanbul Stock Exchange's benchmark IMKB-100 index shed nearly 25 percent in the same period. Yesterday's data point toward a worsening situation, as industrial output for November fell 13.9 percent on an annual basis, the most in seven years. No matter how bad the situation is, the candidates still continue pouring money into their elections.