Turkey's Local Elections Test The Very Limits Of Democracy

With no other elections set for the coming years and the AKP party's increasing use of bully tactics, Turkey's local poll is a last chance to send a true political message.

Poster of Turkey's President Erdogan in Istanbul
Poster of Turkey's President Erdogan in Istanbul
Deniz Yıldırım


ISTANBUL — The March 31 municipal elections are the last time voters in Turkey will go to the polls for the next four years — making these elections far more relevant than others for increasingly less important local governments. This vote is an opportunity to send a message to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) about their policy of anti-politics and their attempt to portray themselves as the only legitimate source of politics. Should there be politics in Turkey outside of the AKP? This is what we will vote for in the short term.

Just look at the government's political strategy for the elections: a war of words based on slander, lies, baseless accusations and insults. Where does this lead? People end up distancing themselves from politics, they become less eager to follow what is going on — what can also be called anti-politics. It is not just the opposition voters who are tired of listening to the same broken record; fatigue affects also those who support the ruling party. Just look at the decline in the ratings and circulation of pro-government media or at the ratings of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's TV appearances. The gap between the government's agenda and people's actual problems keeps growing.

The government is polarizing people for the elections, true. But this goes beyond the election period. The ultimate goal is to alienate people from politics, to make them avoid politics completely.

This is done by portraying members of the opposition as enemies of the country or maybe just as "terrorists." Sometimes, threatening the leading mayoral candidate in Ankara that he would be impeached even if he won is the way. Another move is threatening an opposition leader with prison. The president would even target famous journalists for this cause, as he did with anchorman Fatih Portakal by saying: "If you do not know your place, this nation will hit you in the back of your neck."

Such a move towards anti-politics is a warning sign on the path to dictatorship.

Why would a government want to do this? Because the one-man rule it has established where Erdoğan decides everything about the country will seem natural as the people alienate themselves from politics more and more. The new status quo will not be questioned. People distancing themselves from politics and one person monopolizing the show complete each other. They know that.

At the same time, people's real problems will not be discussed, alternative policies will not be created. Turkey is diving head first into an economic crisis. Unemployment has risen and now affects 4.3 million people, according to recent statistics. The economy is shrinking. Social inequality is deepening.

Also, threats and fearmongering will become the official way for politics. Can a country ruled like this be called a democracy? Such a move towards anti-politics is a warning sign on the path to dictatorship. This is nothing like the western democracies' issue of political apathy.

The problem does not end with the ruling administration. If you talk to young people, they say the parties they vote for are not involved in their lives. They do not see room for themselves in politics. They are correct. Opposition parties are trying to imitate the AKP in terms of rhetoric, programs and cadres and this is another factor that diminishes variety and the quality of political discussion. Opposition policies and politicians are old. Their cadres do not change, being one with the status quo. This is not good, either.

Our main problem is political rivalry being transformed into animosity to the point that being in the opposition becomes a crime. The idea that the government will not give up power even if they lost the elections is becoming common knowledge within society. In this environment, if you wonder what the biggest threat Turkey is facing, my answer is anti-politics.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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