Disabled candidates get thumbs down on general election bid

May 01, 2011, Sunday/ 13:05:00/ İLKE ÖZTAN

Though there was a notable increase in the number of disabled candidates applying for a nomination for a seat in the Turkish Parliament, the actual number of candidates with disabilities put on the nominee lists by political parties, from the left as well as the right, fell short of expectations, advocacy groups for the disabled said.

“Only 2 percent of all the candidates political parties nominated were noted to be people with disabilities,” the chairman of the Federation of the Blind People of Turkey, Veli Özağan, has said.

“There are 8.5 million people with disabilities on varying levels, corresponding to 10 percent of the whole population in our country. This means 10 percent of all deputy positions in Parliament should be held by disabled people,” Özağan stated to highlight the lack of adequate representation for disabled nominees from all parties vying for power.

Of 400 disabled applicants who submitted applications for a nomination for a seat in Parliament, only about 30 percent of them were able to pass the screening process set up by the parties. In total nearly 10,000 people vied for a nomination, and only about 10 percent of them secured a place on the official nominee lists. To make matters worse for disabled candidates, most of them were given lower ranking on the official candidate lists submitted by the political parties to the election commission, decreasing their chances of actually serving in Parliament.

“Of all the disabled nominees, very few of them had their names among the higher rankings on the lists. Judging by their positions on the lists, on which these nominees run for election as deputies, only two or three seats are likely to be secured in Parliament, falling quite short of public expectation to see the disabled population adequately represented politically,” Özağan lamented.

In contrast to past experience, however, the government-led initiatives aimed at allowing for positive discrimination for the disabled has generated much more interest among the disabled community, some analysts say. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) included 11 and 14 disabled candidates, respectively, on their lists of nominees.

Advocacy groups say they are especially frustrated with the main opposition party CHP, and say party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu failed to honor his pledge to nominate a high-profile disabled candidate for a seat in Parliament. According to an account given to Sunday’s Zaman, Kılıçdaroğlu first appointed Turhan İçli, the head of Turkish Confederation for Disabled People, to the Party Assembly, the main decision-making body of the party, as a representative for the party’s disabled voters. İçli was personally assured by the CHP leader that his name would be put near the top of the list to ensure his making it into Parliament.

Yet İçli was put in 12th place for Ankara, practically killing his chances of making it into Parliament. Given the fact that the electoral support the CHP received in the previous general elections of 2007 could secure seats in Parliament for only six of its nominees from that district, İçli’s election is nearly impossible. The CHP’s decision sparked a protest rally in front of CHP headquarters last week, with demonstrators shouting at the CHP leader for not fulfilling his promise.

Fatma Öncü is another disabled nominee from Diyarbakır province whose position on the AK Party’s candidate list offers a slim chance of her election to Parliament. The voter support lent to the AK Party in that particular province during the previous election enabled the party to win only six seats. Hence, Öncü, who was nominated in ninth place, may well run the risk of lagging behind in the race.

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