Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Buying the vote!

Should he be given a gold plaque and congratulated for confessing to a very serious crime against democracy, or should he be stripped of his parliamentary immunity, sent to court and sentenced to up to two years behind bars for buying votes?

Or, was he trying to discredit the election results in which his party emerged as the third-biggest party, with some 10 percent of the vote and five seats in Parliament, while the Nationalist Unity Party, or UBP, of Dr. Derviş Eroğlu came first with over 44 percent of the vote and 26 seats in the unicameral, 50-seat Turkish Cypriot legislature and the Republican Turks’ Party, or CTP, the senior partner of the outgoing ruling coalition, lost ten seats and 17 points from its 2005 electoral support, dropping to 15 seats and 28 percent of the vote?

Yes, the subject is once again the recent elections in northern Cyprus and the shocking confessions of Serdar Denktaş, the son of Rauf Denktaş, the founding president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Talking on the local SİM Radio station, the younger Denktaş confessed that he paid as little as 75 Turkish Liras a vote in the April 19 elections, during the last few hours of the voting. Moreover? He claimed that he has evidence proving the vote buying. Naturally, the Supreme Electoral Board, or YSK, of the Turkish Cypriot state announced that it has launched an investigation into Denktaş’s "public confessions." "If a party leader makes such a statement, we are compelled to investigate the claim," YSK Deputy Chairman Ruhsan Borak said.

Obviously, no one can say what evidence Denktaş might have to prove that he or other senior politicians of northern Cyprus were engaged in vote buying. However, Denktaş has claimed that vote buying has become a routine practice in Turkish Cyprus and that other parties were engaged in that very serious crime.

So sad, is it not? While we were all proud of the democratic atmosphere during and after the vote; of the fact that not a single violent event took place throughout Turkish Cyprus on election day; and of the demonstrated democratic culture that allowed a government to be replaced by votes in the ballot box without any tension, we now read claims from a senior politician that the vote was indeed rigged, that parties bought votes!

"Let us give up the vote-buying practice. What was it in the past? People were coming and explaining the difficulties faced by their families and politicians were trying to help them out. That was something else. But now there are people bargaining with politicians over their vote," Denktaş said. "Bargaining starts from 350 liras, 200 liras, 100 liras per vote. If there is no such thing, let other parties come up and say they did not buy votes. In the last two hours of the voting, there was an increased turnout at the election booths. Yes, some people had their barbeque, enjoyed the morning with their families and voted in the afternoon. But many people waited at home and went to the booths after their expectations were met by some parties. No one should say there was no such thing. I have evidence, I may disclose it."

Worse than election bribery
This charge, of course, is far more serious than foreign, or, to put it more clearly, Turkish, interference in the Turkish Cypriot elections. It is as well far graver than the recruitment offers, easy credits and other such election bribery programs applied by the outgoing CTP during the election campaign. It is even worse than the household-appliances distribution campaign in Turkey's southeastern Tunceli province run by the country's ruling AKP government during the local elections campaign. Yes, there might be no difference as regards the end result, and definitely both election bribery and vote buying are incompatible with moral and legal norms as well as with the fundamental "free vote" principle of democratic governance, but vote buying by party leaders or senior politicians is nothing less than placing dynamite under their own seats in Parliament, in government or at party headquarters. After all, tomorrow someone richer might buy all the votes and put a "democratic" full stop to democratic governance.

Indeed, the detention at polling stations of several people trying to take photographs of how people voted in the booths was taken as an indication of some serious foul play, but Denktaş’s confession demonstrates the need to take stricter measures to ensure the safety of the vote, the voter and, of course, of democratic governance in northern Cyprus.