Thursday, April 3, 2014

Turkey Blames Cat For Destabilizing Country

The cats aren't too happy about taking the blame for blackouts in Turkey. Photographer: Bunyamin Salman/Flickr Vision via Getty Images 

Does Turkey have a "cat lobby" to add to the "interest-rate lobby" and other implausible conspiracies that the government has implicated in attempts to destabilize the country?

That's less frivolous than it sounds (though Turkey's Twitterati have had a lot of fun with it). As the days pass since Turkey's disproportionately important local elections on Sunday, a pillar of the country's political life -- the public perception that Turkish elections are free and fair -- is being destroyed.

The suspicions of many Turks were raised on election day, by a series of statistically improbable electricity blackouts that according to local news reports occurred in 40 cities across more than 20 Turkish provinces during Sunday's vote count, in some cases forcing hand counts by candlelight.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has blamed a cat, which got into a substation and shorted out the electricity in Ankara. Other outages were caused by storms and snow, he said. Still, the image of a "lobby" of stray feline kamikazes fanning out across a country that stretches from Bulgaria to Iran to short electricity substations has gripped the imagination of Turkey's social media users. Conspiracy theories are rampant.

Since then, the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has produced bags of discarded opposition ballots that it says were found in one constituency, as well as numerous discrepancies between written ballots and their digital entries elsewhere. A statistician in Sweden has concluded that in the capital Ankara, the correlation between ballot boxes that have large numbers of invalid ballots and counts that favor a Justice and Development Party victory, is hard to explain. Nothing has yet been proved, but opposition parties have filed appeals against the results in a number of cities.

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