With parliamentary elections coming up on 22 July, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is making a point of nominating women to its party lists throughout the country’s many regional districts. Eurasia Net tells the tale of Ibrahim Ozyavuz, AKP mayor of Sanliurfa in the southeast (and reputed to be the birthplace of Avraham avinu):
Using his influence, Ozyavuz made sure that a womanâ€™s name was added to the list of local AKP candidates, the first time a major political party had ever done so in the Sanliurfa region of southeastern Turkey, which, in social terms, is an extremely conservative place. Ozyavuz, the mayor of a small town outside the city of Sanliurfa, was intimately familiar with the groundbreaking candidateâ€™s qualifications. After all, the parliamentary hopeful, a geophysicist named Cagla Ozyavuz, happened to be his wife.
Not that this was anything unusual. In many parts of southeast Turkey, where hidebound traditions and blood ties rule and feudal clans dominate public life, politics can be a family affair. When election time comes around, political parties have long known that having a leader of a clan â€“ known as “asiret” in Turkish â€“ as a candidate can guarantee victory at the ballot box.
The story notes that the deputy mayor disagrees that clans remain powerful in Turkish politics.
But some locals dispute the contention that asirets have lost much influence. They point to the AKPâ€™s candidate list to support their argument. Zura, the tailor, singled out Zulfukar Izol, leader of a large and powerful clan and a current AKP parliamentarian running for reelection. “Heâ€™s uneducated. Heâ€™s not solving any of Sanliurfaâ€™s problems. But heâ€™s second on the candidate list,” the tailor alleged during a tea break. “Why? Because the party leaders know he can deliver votes.”
Kemal Kapakli, editor-in-chief of Guneydogu, Sanliurfaâ€™s oldest daily newspaper, says the asirets still represent a kind of easy, one-stop shopping electoral opportunity for Turkeyâ€™s political parties. “The asirets are leaders in local politics. They are extremely strong. When party leaders are choosing candidates here, they are taking into consideration how many voters from their clan are standing behind them,” said Kapakli, who also serves as a kind of local historian. “Itâ€™s like a popular brand name.”
Yes, the “brand name” that parties compete under need not be the brand name of the party itself, even when the electoral system is closed-list “PR,” and voters hence are not actually casting candidate votes. (“PR,” in quotation marks, because of the very high threshold.)