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04 June

TV commercials of political parties

Campaign songs can be important prognosticators about what each political party envisions for Turkey

During an election season in Turkey, even if you never turn on the TV or attend a political rally you cannot escape the election songs, as all political parties have campaign buses with megaphones blaring into your neighborhood.
For June 2015 elections – now only three days away – the campaign songs from all parties have been widely shared on TV, radios, streets and social media. For a country with a young population, the production of video clips and rewording of popular songs into campaign jingles have become an industry of its own.
Indeed, a popular presenter and singer, Uğur Işılak had dedicated a song to President [then Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during 2014 campaign. And he has been nominated as a parliamentarian candidate on AKP [Justice and Development Party] list for 2015.
Highlights of the campaign jingles
AKP’s songs focus on the traditional images. Davutoğlu appears along with Erdoğan. You can hear the ezan [call to prayer] in multiple video clips, along with the latest one with Hagia Sophia in the background. There are whirling dervishes in the background, and then Davutoğlu is photographed at the entrance of a mosque. Several times the word “Allah [God]” is uttered. There are repeated references to “dawa” [the cause], justice and righteousness, along with “New Turkey.” Davutoğlu is portrayed in tears hugging Muslims in Eastern Asia.
AKP’s fears surface in the songs as well. They intensely target two groups AKP fears to lose the most: Islamists, and the Kurds. One video where a young woman explains the hardships she faced due to the headscarf ban, was criticized in social media for the kind of language it employs “rooms resembling gas chambers were established to convince us to remove our scarfs” and the factual mistakes in her claims.
AKP has released several video clips for June elections, there is even one in Kurdish, with the slogan “One more time AKP, again AKP.” Some of the images in AKP’s clips have been offensive to certain groups. One such clip, 7 minutes long had sections of folkloric dancers. One of these moments were asked to be removed by Republican People’s  Party (CHP) deputy Hüseyin Aygün, as it resembled Alevi religious ritual, semah.
AKP also released video clips to highlight the stellar services they provide. One about health care is particularly poignant. After fainting, a young woman is first taken to a boat, then an ambulance, then airlifted to a hospital all within minutes. Good news: she is pregnant. Yet, in a country where babies die while being carried on the backs of their fathers in knee-deep snow, and doctors are beaten or murdered in hospitals simply trying to do their jobs, AKP’s video is misleading. That is precisely why, in social media this video’s conceptual message was forgotten but the actor’s previous career was ridiculed. [you can view it at the end of the clip from this link] Quite telling that AKP’s slogan “Others Talk, AKP Does” [the Job] while data shows that government has accomplished only 30 per cent of its stated goals.
People in Turkey deserve to be applauded for their witty and humorous approach to the constraints on freedom of expression. In this election, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party [HDP] has brought a fresh air of breath and changed many attitudes. For example, one HDP commercial starts with Erdoğan repeating his well-known angry outburst line “Who are you” [Indicating who do you think you are?], and continues with a soft tune and big smiles of HDP leaders, introducing themselves. Yes, literally saying their names, and adding “we will grow stronger as we get to know each other better.” It displays a note “First vote is like first love. My first vote is to you Brother Selahattin” [Referring to HDP’s chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş] HDP has election songs in different Kurdish dialects, as well as in Turkish. The one that was received well, is a gathering where people are dancing [halay] with HDP leaders. It has upbeat music sure to warm up your heart.
HDP has also utilized social media effectively. One nifty method was utilizing traditional comedy movie lines, with HDP slogans. HDP leader Demirtaş has referred to well-known characters from Turkish cinema in his speeches as well, which allows him to connect with various sections of the society.

The main opposition party, CHP¸ Republican People’s Party, has focused mainly on economy, corruption, increasing authoritarianism and diminishing freedoms in Turkey. In one of its most popular videos with the slogan “Com’on Vote and Let Them Go”, the continuous clapping in the clip and the slogan  #WeareClappingAsaNation has caused controvery. In another one, for a “livable Turkey vote for CHP” there are people who say “I could vote for CHP, I never thought I would, but I will” emphasizing high levels of unemployment and poverty.
The Nationalist People’s Party, MHP, comes in with the slogan “Walk with Us Turkey” avoiding excessive ethnic rhetoric or imagery. In a sober video, MHP tells the voters, “You are not doomed to this, there are poor but proud people in this land” with images of working men and women.  There are references to being a believer and images of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli advising modesty while the overall message is quite simple and straightforward.
Campaign tunes are strong tools of political persuasion for particularly undecided voters. They are also a good sign of how fair the election system is in a country. In Turkey, the picture is rather unsettling. While there are allegations that AKP is using Turkish National Television Network’s (TRT) trucks for its campaigns, HDP receives not a dime from the state for its campaign. This imbalance in access to public funding also affects how many people get to hear the songs and messages of opposition parties. So we have to remember the uneven playing ground while trying to evaluate the overall impact of these jingles.


Tags: pınar tramblay , 2015 election , campaign , erdoğan , akp , chp , mhp , hdp


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