Tortured puppy shifts Turkey elections agenda
Disturbing images of dying mutilated dog trigger rare show of unity among nation’s politicians
The arrest of a man who tortured a puppy has seized the political agenda ahead of elections in Turkey next Sunday.
The puppy, whose paws and tail had been chopped off, was found last Wednesday in a forest in Sapanca, in the northwestern province of Sakarya. The mutilated animal was taken to a vet but died during surgery two days later.
A construction worker was arrested over the weekend in connection to the crime, as images of the puppy went viral across the country.
Following a public outcry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that Turkey’s animal rights laws would be amended following the 24 June vote.
“Whether at home or on the street, we will take the law into consideration and evaluate it. This operator was arrested today. The authorities in Sapanca ordered his arrest,” said Erdogan, who is battling to win a second term.
“There is nothing acceptable about this, but it is very important to show this awareness.”
The issue “has been taken up by rival politicians in the close-run contest, in which the country’s strongman president is standing on a platform that would see his powers enhanced”, says Sky News.
The shocking cruelty case has prompted “a rare show of unity among Turkey’s political parties and presidential candidates, who have been trading barbs for weeks ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary and presidential elections”, says Reuters.
Both government officials and opposition politicians condemned the act and have called for stricter measures against people found guilty of mistreating animals.
Animal rights groups say Turkey’s punishments for animal cruelty are too lenient. An “amendment to animal rights legislation has been on the parliament’s agenda for months, but little progress has been made”, adds the news agency.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News says many people prosecuted in Turkish courts for torturing, tormenting or killing animals receive only minor penalties.
The new government bill was sent to the parliament in April, and proposes that animals “are not property”, in what is being described as a landmark change of perspective in Turkish law.
But the head of a leading animal rights group in the country said the new legislation still gives local authorities a “license to kill” stray animals.
“Under the current law, municipalities are collecting animals, poisoning them, mass-killing them or transporting them to wild places with no food resource, condemning them to death. Some of them, such as the municipality of [the Central Anatolian province of] Kayseri went even further by burying around 800 stray dogs alive. They would still be able to do this even after the new bill becomes law,” Metin Yıldırım, the chair of the Association to Protect Stray Animals and Environment, told the Turkish daily Birgun.
Although the new bill proposes heavier jail sentences, “these sentences would still be light enough to be turned into fines”, adds the Hurriyet Daily News.
Under constitutional reforms adopted following a referendum in April 2017, the Turkish electorate each get two votes: one is for the new president, while the other decides which parties will have seats in parliament.
President Erdogan has “not lost an election in 16 years, but the forthcoming elections are likely to be the most difficult of his political career”, says Deutsche Welle.
Ozer Sencar, owner of Turkish opinion research institute Metropoll, told the German newspaper that he has never seen Erdogan run such a bad election campaign.
According to Sencar, Erdogan “no longer determines the agenda or presents any vision for the future. When he appears in public he seems weak and lacks passion”.
“He’s never made so many mistakes in his speeches,” Sencar added.
There is a very real possibility “that Erdogan will win the presidency but lose parliament to the opposition”, says The Guardian.
It will depend on “whether the opposition can draw away conservative and nationalist voters, as well as Kurdish voters angry about Erdogan’s alliance with the nationalists”, the newspaper adds.