Less than two days before Turkey’s second round of presidential elections, Turkish authorities have taken measures to block Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the rival to the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, from sending SMS messages to citizens.
The Information and Communication Technologies Authority issued an “urgent” directive to all mobile phone operators across the country, instructing them to prevent propaganda messages from reaching out to citizens through SMS. The letter ominously warned that failure to comply would result in the revocation of authorisation for these operators.
Kılıçdaroğlu, who garnered 44.88 per cent of the vote in the first round, falling behind Erdoğan’s 49.52 per cent, took to Twitter to express his dismay over the Communications Authority’s decision. In a video message, he said that he consistently faced slander, lies, and conspiracies from the government, highlighting the various irregularities witnessed during the 14 May elections, such as inconsistencies in vote counts and attempts by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to ban election observers before the run-off.
“The country is being led astray by a coward,” Kılıçdaroğlu exclaimed, directly addressing Erdoğan. “What do you want from this country, coward? Should I withdraw from the election entirely? Is that your wish?”
The Communications Authority justified its decision to block the opposition candidate’s messages by citing a ruling from the Supreme Electoral Council, dated 15 March, which prohibits the dissemination of propaganda through video, audio, or written messages via email, mobile phones, or landlines. However, reports on social media following the ban reveal that propaganda messages favouring Erdoğan are still reaching citizens.
Kılıçdaroğlu further revealed that his message announcing his campaign programme to journalists has also been impeded, exacerbating an already challenging situation. “They cannot tolerate our interaction with the people and our efforts to make our voices heard,” Kilicdaroglu remarked, underscoring the systematic attempts to stifle opposition voices and restrict democratic engagement.
As Turkey braces for the crucial second round of elections on Sunday, the restrictions placed on Kılıçdaroğlu’s communication efforts have cast a dark cloud of doubt over the integrity of the election. Observers and advocates for democracy fear that such actions may undermine the fundamental principles of fair and transparent elections, posing a grave threat to the nation’s democratic fabric.