AK Party uses state, municipality resources for Istanbul rally

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) took full advantage of state and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality assets for its election rally in Istanbul on Sunday, as it did for previous rallies, violating campaign rules in place for the March 30 local elections and drawing the ire of opposition parties. The opposition believes that the AK Party not only “steals state resources” to finance its crowded rallies, but also engages in unfair competition against its political rivals. “We are faced with an [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan who has linked his future to protecting his [political] power. He gathers thousands of people at his election rallies to manipulate perception [to create the image that he is still very powerful], and he is using state resources to do this,” said Ruhsar Demirel, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chairwoman, speaking to Today’s Zaman. In Istanbul on March 23, the municipality mobilized all means at its disposal for the AK Party rally. Dozens of municipality buses were used to carry party supporters to the rally area. The buses, decorated with AK Party flags, had signs indicating that they were “on duty” for the AK Party rally. They refused to accept other passengers and party supporters were not asked to pay the fare for their transport to the rally at Yenikapı Square. City ferries and high-speed ferries also carried thousands of AK Party supporters to the rally area free of charge. Party supporters were also offered free transport on Marmaray, the undersea commuter train line that connects İstanbul’s Asian side to the European side. Some of the entry gates at Marmaray stations were reserved for AK Party supporters going to the rally and announcements were made for several hours that said, “Passengers attending the [AK Party] rally may use these gates at no charge.” The crowd was so large that some supporters who were unable to get on Marmaray trains were asked by security guards to use boats and high-speed ferries. News sources reported that tension erupted between some passengers and security guards when some who wanted to use Marmaray on Sunday but did not plan to attend the AK Party rally were asked to pay a fare. Complaints were made and questions were asked about why AK Party supporters were permitted to benefit from state resources supported with the taxes paid by millions of people. Ayşe Fındık told the Cihan news agency that the allocation of state and municipality resources for the AK Party rally created havoc in Istanbul. “People were asked to pay to use Marmaray yesterday, but it is free of charge today. Buses are not operating because they are carrying [AK] party supporters to the rally. We walked here [Marmaray] from Eminönü [because buses were not running]. This is a sin. This is illegal. They may hold rallies, but they do not have the right to inconvenience people like this. I am trying to get home from work,” she said. People who attended the AK Party rally were also offered transportation free of charge after the rally. For the complete article: http://en.cihan.com.tr/news/AK-Party-uses-state-municipality-resources-for-Istanbul-rally_5463-CHMTM4NTQ2My8xMDA1;+2uoi

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