With parliamentary elections less than a week away, Turkey’s political discourse is swirling downward. The Washington Post reports on the controversy over a claim made by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, an opposition leader of the Republican People’s Party, that President Erdogan has a golden toilet in his palace in Ankara:
It’s a bizarre allegation, perhaps, and — at first at least — it prompted an appropriately bizarre response from Erdogan. On Sunday, Erdogan invited Kilicdaroglu to his home to inspect his toilets. If even a single gold-plated seat was found, Erdogan said in an interview with state-run TRT television, he would resign as president. If none was found, he said, Kilicdaroglu must resign.
It’s quite a bold move, and one that seems to suggest that, no, Erdogan doesn’t own a gold-plated toilet. In fact, it seems that Kilicdaroglu doesn’t really think Erdogan has one. In an interview on Monday, the opposition leader said his reference to gold-plated toilet seats was simply intended to illustrate the extravagances of officials and wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
The Turkish elections are proving to be much more hard-fought than Erdogan thought they’d be this time last year. The prime reason for that is the Turkish economy is circling the drain.
And in Turkey, as everywhere, elections often aren’t fought on the high level of academic discussion, but around memes and ideas that connect concepts voters care about to the ‘gut’. Whether Erdogan does or does not have a golden throne (we wouldn’t care to lay money that a tour of Ak Saray would reveal one), he does have a palace four times the floor space of Versailles and grandiose dreams for a new Turkey… all while his party’s supposed core competency, care of the economy, has suffered. And for many Turks—more than last year—the division is increasingly unacceptable.
So while principled critics of the Turkish administration might prefer attention were shone on, say, Erdogan’s threatening journalists with life in prison, sometimes elections of international importance are fought with the same thing as 7th grade student council votes: toilet humor.