ISTANBUL – In one of the hottest election campaigns, Turkey's political parties and their presidential candidates have made many campaign promises, many of which are unrealistic, some of which are described as strangest and most controversial, and some of them have been funny.
Exaggerated electoral promises are not new to the Turkish voter, as some of them have been etched in the memory of Turks until they sometimes turned into popular proverbs, such as "No matter how much others pay, I will pay 5 liras over him", a saying launched by former President Suleiman Demirel during his election campaign, and preserved history, trying to block the way for his rivals.
Former Prime Minister and leader of the Righteous Path party, Tansu Çiller, was best known for her promises to have every citizen have two keys, one for their home and one for their car, while her party's strangest promises in the 1991 elections were to make the walls of police stations made of transparent glass, apparently leading the Right Way party to first place in the election.
Here are some of the strangest campaign promises made by Turkish politicians in the run-up to the May 14, 2023 elections.
President Erdogan: Half of the things they promised to implement were achieved by us, and the other half are absurd promises. Will you leave the country to such people?! #ترکیا #MTurkTV subscribe to the media truck channel on telegram https://t.co/VhDfWdOeoL pic.twitter.com/ctJseYRvvQ
— Media Türk TV (@MturkTv) May 8, 2023
Free homes and services for citizens
In one of the applications of traditional Marxism, the Turkish Communist Party announced in its election manifesto that if it wins the next election – which it titled "in just one week" – it will make water, electricity, gas, mass transit and house rentals free, and will confiscate all houses from construction companies and distribute them to those in need.
The Turkish Communist Party is unpopular and does not have any member of parliament, but it won the local elections in 2019 as mayor of the Kurdish-majority state of Tunceli, and these promises are especially important in these elections precisely because of the low standard of living in general, as the inflation of the Turkish economy is among the highest in the world.
No fancy food for cats
CHP chairman and opposition presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was known for his prolific electoral promises, as well as his party's electoral platform as well as the Six-Table Joint Policy Agreement, and some of his promises were criticized by the government, either because they were exaggerated or because they had already been fulfilled by the current government.
In one of his videos posted on his Twitter account, Kılıçdaroğlu vowed to exempt those who receive the minimum wage from income tax, which officials were quick to criticize as a measure taken by the government two years ago and in effect early last year.
In another promise described as wit, Kılıçdaroğlu posted on his Instagram account a picture of him with the cat "Shiro" at the headquarters of his party, and commented on it by saying that he explained to him the last thing he is working on, "after he (Shiro's cat) became one of the political leaders in the corridors of the party," and added, "I made a covenant with Shiro, when we come to power we will give up luxury cat food, we will love everyone, including cats, flowers and insects, mercy is a virtue."
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdaroglu)
The Law of Questions Not Asked
On another platform, Kılıçdaroğlu came out with a video on his newly created account in "TikTok" – pledging to work on a law that prohibits asking questions that reflect discrimination or inequality, explaining that, saying, "When I become president of the republic, I will eliminate media and favoritism."
"Are you married? Are you single? Are you not veiled? Are you veiled? Will you have children? And are you a Gemini? These questions will become a thing of the past after May 14, he said, adding, "Mr. Kamal will work to pass the law on questions that are not asked and I will be the president of all."
While in the mosque for Friday prayers. The head of the #اوميت_اوزداغ Victory Party denounces the lack of mention of #اتاتورك in the Friday sermon during the preacher's speech about the anniversary of the #ملاذكرد pic.twitter.com/emZF255Sfg battle
— Hasan İsmail-Hasan Ismail (@Hasanismailmoq) August 26, 2022
Ataturk in Friday sermons
The head of the Balad Party and presidential candidate Muharrem Ince, a defector from the Republican People's Party (CHP), who repeatedly asserts his affiliation with Kemalist ideology, vowed to force the name of the founder of the modern Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to be mentioned in Friday sermons.
"If I am elected president of the republic, I will impeach Ali Erbaş (head of religious affairs) for refusing to mention Ataturk's name in Friday sermons," Ince said, adding, "Ataturk's name must be mentioned in Friday sermons."
Not far from Ince's proposal, the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) pledged in its election platform to abolish the presidency of religious affairs and replace it with the presidency of faith affairs, to include all religions, according to party leaders.
The head of the new Welfare Party, Fatih Erbakan, who joined the ruling public coalition, but is running on his own lists, pledged that if his party wins the elections, he pledged to work under the dome of parliament to lift what he called "external tutelage" imposed on 3 national ministries, in a claim that many citizens met with astonishment.
"We hope to fight more effectively in parliament to save our Department of Agriculture from the control of the Bill Gates Foundation, to rid the Ministry of Health of the tutelage of the World Health Organization, and to free the Ministry of National Education from the tutelage of the U.S. Fulbridge Commission," Erbakan said.
Erbakan does not explain how these foreign institutions control the ministries or what kind of guardianship they exercise over them, while these promises are contained in a list of demands that the new Welfare Party had made to the AKP as a condition for joining the public coalition.
An electoral banner for the Zafar Party indicates that the party's victory means that the refugees leave Turkey (social media)
13 million refugees
The head of the Nationalist Nail Party, Umit Özdağ, is known for his anti-refugee and anti-foreigner stance, and the country's asylum file is the most important pillar of his election campaign, but his electoral platform provided for figures and timetables that may be the most exaggerated in this regard.
Özdağ vowed that only his Zafar Party would send 13 million "refugees and fugitives in Turkey home by force within a year."
The Six-Party Table, or opposition Nation Alliance, which has put Kılıçdaroğlu as a joint presidential candidate, has vowed to resolve the refugee issue and repatriate them within two years under favorable conditions.
Turkey's "Al Zafar" party hangs posters with the phrase "Didn't you miss you?" in Arabic with a barcode leading to the road map to #سوريا pic.twitter.com/iMmBYIVsf8
— Al Jazeera (@AJArabic) May 1, 2023
Grandparents Alliance presidential candidate Sinan Ogan has vowed to raise the country's minimum wage to 30,1500 Turkish liras ($24,<>) a month to match the poverty line, far higher than the <>,<> Turkish liras pledged by Nation Alliance candidate Kılıçdaroğlu.
"Our employees got the minimum wage, but I promise to raise it to the poverty line," Ogan said, explaining that the poverty line for a family of 4 is 30,9 liras, while the hunger line is 500,8500 liras, which is higher than the current minimum wage (<>,<> liras per month).
Over the past two decades, the minimum wage has not exceeded the $500 barrier, as the government announced earlier this year to raise the minimum wage to 8500,30 liras, so observers believe that the promise of <>,<> liras is not viable.