Ezgi Köksal is a One Young World Ambassador from Turkey who acted as an official observer during the country's local elections.
Is anyone wondering if the results of the 2014 local elections in Turkey are a surprise?
No, they are not. In reality we all knew the Justice and Development Party (AKP) would still get the majority of the votes despite allegations of corruption. Although some might have expected or hoped there would be change in Istanbul and Ankara, there is reason to be proud of this election.
Yes, AKP got the majority of the vote (around 45%). Yes, they are still in charge. But it was a hell of a race. This election is a testament to the principle that every vote counts.
One vote can change everything [[[image-1 medium right]]]
I acted as an official observer of the election along with 25,000 other volunteers across Istanbul. The group was formed thanks to Oy ve Ötesi (Vote and Beyond), an NGO founded in the wake of the Gezi Park protests to tackle electoral corruption.
Our aim was to ensure a just and true election. We genuinely did not care who would win - even though each of us had a personal preference - we just cared about having a reliable election.
The support for our work has been incredible. We had access to volunteer lawyers and support from all political parties, except AKP. Thousands worked in the Republican People's Party (CHP) buildings to ensure each vote was registered.
Yes, the general public will doubt the results. Each hour, there is news of mayoral changes in the provinces due to rejections, wrong registrations, missing ballot boxes and recounts proposed by opposition parties and observer volunteers.
Even now, I am checking my Twitter to see if the capital Ankara's votes are finally counted, if the objections were accepted and if the Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate has won the capital. For after a recount, it was announced that CHP won Yalova (another Turkish city) with 6 votes whereas earlier it was announced that AKP won Yalova with 1 vote. Similar cases have occurred in several other cities.
Yet in the midst of constant changes, videos of people burning ballots emerge and electricity power failures occur in 42 cities in Turkey. The minister of energy claims that the outages were caused by a cat stuck in the transformer. Maybe this is true but it sure is tragicomic. Lost ballot result documents were also found as a result of a call to action on Twitter for people to share the ones they have. With new websites emerging to share documents and videos of misconduct, it is no wonder the government is so keen to shut down Twitter.
Mistrust towards the government is at its peak. Nobody trusts each other anymore. But we know the AKP government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are not the only source of blame.
In the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests, we realise it is our responsibility too. We should have protected our democratic values better. We are the most educated generation this country has ever seen. If anyone can change, connect and understand this country, it is us. This election is living proof that our generation is finally ready to take responsibility.
I am so proud of my people. The turnout for this election was over 90%. As citizens we did our jobs. We voted. We volunteered. We stayed out late to protect the ballots. We made sure the votes were registered. We did our best to make the election fair.
I saw 80-something-year-olds that could barely walk make it to the ballot box. My own grandmother voted even though she had knee surgery the week before. People dedicated themselves to get up and vote. Who supported who does not matter; we showed the Prime Minister that we are taking part in democracy like we did in the Gezi Park protests around the country. We have shown elections can be just as powerful as protests.
So, after the Gezi Park protests, if the world thinks nothing has really changed, they are wrong, we have. You only have to note the impressive electoral turnout and compare the 2009 local elections to identify change. We fight for our rights more than we did before the protests. The AKP may have won again but we have shown we are ready to challenge them, either on the street or at the polling station.