ADANA - Aytaç Durak from the Nationalist Movement Party and Mehmet Ali Bilici from the Justice and Development Party have been neck and neck in Adana. With the completion of the vote count, Durak looked to take 29.70 percent of the votes, a 20 percent increase for the MHP
As the country begins to unwind after intense months of campaigns, local election fever continues to grip the Mediterranean province of Adana, where ballot fraud allegations and a potential election redo torment the city.
Aytaç Durak from the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and Mehmet Ali Bilici from the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, have been neck and neck in the Adana election. With the completion of the vote count, Durak looked to take 29.70 percent of the votes, a 20 percent increase for the MHP compared to the 2004 results. Meanwhile, Bilici’s votes were at 29.53 percent, a decrease of 10 percent from 2004.
Ümit Özgümüş from the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, ranked third in the elections, taking 26.24 percent.
The small margin in votes has triggered ongoing disputes in the city.
"The vote-count process in the Adana elections has never been carried out under good conditions," AKP candidate Bilici told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Bilici accuses Durak
"Although there are limitations on statements, comments and press conferences made by candidates on an election day, Durak made a press statement around 1 p.m., saying that the Adana elections would be overshadowed. This not only caused manipulation regarding the election results, but also affected the public’s will directly," Bilici said.
Ümit Özgümüş, CHP candidate and chairman of the Adana Chamber of Industry, also agreed with Bilici that Durak impacted the election results. "The legitimacy of the Adana elections ended with the wrongdoings of Durak. I would never accept the office of mayor with inner calm under these circumstances," Özgümüş said.
Durak is also criticized for starting to celebrate victory all around the city before the official results began to be revealed.
"When the results began to be revealed, Durak, who said before the elections that he would take at least 70 percent of the votes, saw that Bilici from the AKP was ahead of him and he panicked. As a cover, he began celebrations all around the city," said Mehmet Sağyaşar, a 42-year-old shop owner. "His intention was to say, ’According to the results we get, we have won.’ That’s why we are celebrating here. If the AKP proved to be winner, they certainly cheated," said Sağyaşar.
"I voted for Durak. However, I accept that he should have waited for the celebrations until the official results were revealed," said Nefise Akyıldız, an Adana resident.
Following objections from the AKP and CHP, about 200,000 votes in the Yüreğir and Seyhan districts began to be recounted. But upon the objection of the MHP, the recount process was halted Wednesday with the justification that a recount would be time consuming and necessitate extra resources.
The AKP and CHP supporters harshly criticized the Election Committee’s decision, claiming that Durak had a direct influence on the decision and used it to serve his own ends.
Both Bilici and Özgümüş said they found torn voting cards in the Denizli, Barbaros, Yenibey and Mithatpaşa districts.
"There are some police registrations showing that some MHP supporters changed the packages carrying the public’s votes with the new ones carrying the MHP votes," said Bilici.
Özgümüş said Durak, being a wealthy businessman, had the financial power to influence the result as he liked.
"Durak does not want the votes of the Yüreğir and Seyhan districts to be counted again although the MHP did not win the elections there. Under normal conditions, a party wants a new vote count in the districts they have lost. However, Durak does not want that since he has deep concerns that his election tricks will be revealed if the votes are counted again," Özgümüş said.
"Even if the counting process was restarted, we would not have faith in that, either. Having a serious influence on the selection committees, Aytaç Durak certainly has the potential and ’power’ beyond that and still turn the results on his side," he said.
The AKP provincial administration, on the other hand, wants the vote count to be broadcasted live if it is restarted.
"Adana residents are not content with the elections in the city. We, as the AKP, want a renewal of the Adana elections, but the voting and counting processes should be broadcast live," said Mehmet Sağlam, AKP’s Adana provincial chairman who is also a lawyer.
"If the Adana votes are recounted, the AKP would win the elections, by at least 20,000 votes," Sağlam said.
While the AKP and CHP see the solution to the election dispute as more than a vote count, MHP authorities seem to be sure that the party and Durak would triumph again even if the election was redone.
A member of MHP Provincial Assembly, who did not want his name revealed, said both the AKP and CHP cheated in the Adana elections and proved his claim with a video tape. In the recording, a returning officer is seen tearing ballot papers with MHP votes.
"Can you really believe the AKP with Mehmet Ali Bilici could get almost 30 percent of the votes in Adana? Bilici has been a member of Parliament before. What did he do for Adana then? A big nothing. I do not believe the AKP, as a party, got these votes either because the general atmosphere for AKP in the city was total disillusionment before the elections. That stemmed from the fact that Prime Minister Erdoğan did not set Durak as the AKP’s Adana candidate," said the MHP provincial council member.
Still liked by locals
While claims that Durak cheated in the Adana elections continue, the MHP candidate still seems to be appreciated by locals.
"Although not many people like Durak, everybody accepts that he is the owner of Adana. He is the one who made Adana today’s Adana, making serious investment in the city," said Behçet Ayerdem, 56, civil engineer, adding that that the people should be fair when accusing others, he said.
Stating his concerns about these assertions, Şaban Baş, chairman of Adana Chamber of Trade, said the Turkish government and Adana police were powerful enough to secure healthy voting conditions in the city. "We are not living in a secluded city. We have police, and all the necessary election authorities here. Who else could we trust if we do not trust them? All we can do is calmly wait for the decision of the Supreme Committee of Elections," Baş said.