Disinformation Plagues Presidential and Parliamentary Election Campaigns in Turkey.

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As Turkey gears up for a second round of voting in the presidential election, disinformation narratives have marred the campaign of both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. With neither candidate securing a majority in the initial round, a runoff election is set to take place for the first time in the country’s history. Unfortunately, the spread of disinformation has been rampant during this election cycle, as examined by The Cube.

Misleading Claim: Kılıçdaroğlu’s Alleged Ties to a Terrorist Organization One viral video circulated during the campaign purported to show Kılıçdaroğlu urging viewers to vote together, followed by a clip featuring Murat Karayilan, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), classified as a terrorist entity in Turkey, the European Union, and the United States. Erdoğan even shared this video during a rally, questioning whether voters should support a candidate backed by a terrorist organization. However, fact-checking sites and tweets have revealed that the video is a montage, combining unrelated footage.

Misleading Claim: Erdoğan’s Alleged Voter Bribery A video shared on Twitter showed Erdoğan distributing banknotes to children at a polling station, prompting some social media users to question whether he was attempting to bribe voters. However, the act was explained as a cultural practice by Ragip Soylu, Turkish bureau chief for Middle East Eye, who noted that giving “pocket money” to children, particularly during religious festivities, is customary. The video was filmed during the election, but the cultural aspect was misinterpreted.

Misleading Claim: Exaggerated Crowd Size at Erdoğan’s Rally Pro-Erdoğan groups claimed that a massive crowd of 1.7 million supporters attended a rally in Istanbul before the first round of the election. However, fact-checking sites debunked this claim, with Turkish media outlet BPT noting that the gathering place at Ataturk airport could accommodate a maximum of 277,000 people. Another fact-checking website estimated the number of attendees to be a maximum of 690,000, significantly lower than the AK Party’s exaggerated figure.

Allegations of Foreign Interference and Trolls Both Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan pointed fingers at each other regarding the spread of fake news. Kılıçdaroğlu blamed “Russian foreign hackers” recruited by Erdoğan’s team, while Erdoğan accused his rival of employing an “army of trolls.” These allegations highlight the role of disinformation in the campaign and the tensions between the candidates.

Impact of Fake News on Turkish Society Although experts are uncertain about the direct impact of disinformation on election results, its influence on Turkish society cannot be overlooked. Suay Boulougouris, Program Officer for NGO Article 19, emphasized that the opposition coalition was targeted more heavily than the government coalition. While it is challenging to quantify the definitive effect on election outcomes, the spread of misleading or false information has contributed to increased polarization within society.

The highly anticipated second round of voting is scheduled for May 28th, marking a crucial moment in Turkey’s political landscape.

SOURCE: Ref – By Sophia Khatsenkova

Images: Google Images

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