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Portraits from a ballot box

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I got a glimpse of the Turkey that I want to live in on April 16 while I was working as a ballot box observer in downtown İzmir.

True to form, the ballot box had representatives from the four parties in parliament: the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Within several hours, the HDP representative, a young, slim shoemaker from İzmir’s impoverished Karabağlar district, and the MHP representative, a 40-something woman in early retirement, became friends fast and started showing each other photos on their mobile phones. “You are as old as my son,” said the woman as she showed the young man a photo of her son who studied architecture.

“I wish I had a chance to go to university,” replied the shoemaker. “I was a good student but we did not have the money.” He, in turn, showed her a snapshot of his girlfriend, a headscarf-wearing girl who arrived in our ballot-box later in the afternoon and brought us all “lahmacun” from the southeastern province of Mardin. The CHP representative, an intimidatingly chic blonde in her 50s sporting an Hermes scarf, revealed that moment that she was originally from the eastern province of Gaziantep, which led the CHP and HDP representatives to give us a long, passionate speech on places to visit in the east of the country.

The biggest surprise proved to be the AKP representative: A plump young girl from the Çiğli district with blonde hair and dark roots and pink lipstick busy with taking selfies of herself. She confided to me at the end of the afternoon that her father forced her to be an AKP ballot representative. Indeed, the father had come in twice to check on his daughter, to make sure that the she did not spend too much time outside smoking cigarettes or leaving the ballot box. “Ablacığım [my sister], I am sick of the whole pressure he puts on me,” she said. “So when I went into the ballot cabin, I stamped on the ‘no,’ out of pure anger against his repression.” It was unclear who the “he” in the sentence was. But then she grew scared: “My father or a party representative will be here when we count the votes. What happens if there are no ‘yes’ votes in this box? Then they will know that I voted ‘no.’ I was hoping that the MHP representative would vote ‘yes,’ so that I could have a cover but she voted ‘no’ as well,” she lamented. Fortunately for this reluctant ballot representative, there were a handful of “yes” votes in the box. The low percentage of “yes” was duly noted by an AKP electoral observer who came during the count, a beautiful 20-year-old girl wearing a headscarf that matched the color of her eyes and an Indian tattoo on her right hand. She looked neither........

© Hürriyet Daily News