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Erdogan as ruler of an unequal ballot

Correspondent in Istanbul.

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Erdogan as ruler of an unequal ballot

Correspondent in Istanbul

Fahriye jubilantly trots towards the exit. "This time, victory is guaranteed," says the 63-year-old mother. Flowered scarf on a red dress, she stamped "evet" (yes) under the photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before slipping her ballot into the bottom of the ballot box. At the Muallim Yahya school, in the heart of the conservative Çarsamba district, in the Fatih district of Istanbul, the re-election of the “reis” is beyond doubt. "And today more than ever," insists this inveterate partisan, "disappointed" that the president, candidate for his succession, did not win in the first round. “We can understand: inflation and the earthquake of February 6 have sown doubt among some. But opposite, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu has nothing better to offer. So why take the risk of changing everything?” she insists.

In his eyes, only the one whose giant poster dominates the opposite sidewalk proves convincing for the undecided two weeks ago and the voters of the third candidate (the ultranationalist Sinan Ogan, who openly called for voting for “continuity”): “Look at all these bridges, these roads, these airports that Erdogan had built. In twenty years, I have seen Istanbul change with my own eyes. When we migrated thirty years ago from Kastamonu (by the Black Sea, Ed) with my family, we had to queue for hours to go to the doctor. Now you have hospitals in every neighborhood! And the whole world has reason to envy us.”

In the schoolyard, a small crowd is improvised. Gray jacket over trousers, Yakup Yasar, the leader of the AKP, from the Fatih district, has just arrived. “Erdogan is the future. These are the drones, the new power plant, the warships”, states the representative of the ruling party, distributing smiles and handshakes to voters. His mission for the day? "To tour the 53 schools of Fatih to ensure the smooth running of the ballot," he said confidently. "In the first round, he says, Erdogan has already won 52.8% of the votes in our neighborhood."

From the steps of a room, the lawyer Nurdogan Bayratkas contemplates the scene with caution. Hard at work since the opening of the polls at 8 a.m., he is one of the thousands of lawyers and volunteer observers mobilized throughout the country to monitor the ballot boxes and ensure the sincerity of the vote. “It is a crucial business. In the first round, we lacked personnel and organization,” he says. But even if cheating in the voting booth and during the count could be defused, he knows the political influence of twenty years difficult to fight in fifteen days: "When we are there to observe, the agents of the AKP move to control. They have field experience. They have known the locals for years. It is a form of manipulation upstream, just like the inequality of the campaign, which is ultimately reflected at the ballot box.

Unfair from the first round, the election campaign between the two rounds saw a new batch of fake news and accusations directed against the opposition. All in a context where the majority of the media only relayed the words of Ankara. “The media system put in place constitutes a massive rigging of the elections by depriving citizens of democratic deliberation”, deplores Erol Önderoglu of the organization RSF. “I vote with a heavy heart, but I vote anyway,” insists Rabia, in her forties, in front of the Findinkli school in Gümüssuyu. She would have a thousand reasons to shun the ballot box. The anti-migrant turn of her favorite candidate, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, to grab voices from the far right, disappointed her with this man whom she saw as a "Gandhi". This second round, which takes place ten years to the day after the repression of the demonstrations in Gezi Park, a stone's throw from here, also reminds him of the fragility of the word "freedom" in his country. Without much hope, she nevertheless insisted on renewing her confidence in Erdogan's rival. "Voting is my last way to protest!" she said.

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