ISTANBUL -- After Turks went to the polls in a round of contentious local elections on Sunday, power outages forced some voting centers to count votes by candlelight. Accusations of election fraud ran rampant, especially in the closely-watched races in the capital. In an attempt to ease voter worry, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yıldız has now come forward with a culprit for the power cuts: a cat.
"I am not joking, friends," he said, according to the Agence France-Presse. "A cat walked into a transformer unit. That’s why there was a power cut. It’s not the first time this has happened."
The statement prompted widespread ridicule and anger among Turks who are increasingly at odds with controversial Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party. The local elections were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s 11-year rule, and the party emerged victorious despite months of anti-government protests and a dramatic corruption scandal that appeared to implicate Erdogan in fraud. Many Turks are skeptical about the power outages that occurred in major city centers, with some people alleging that the government tampered with vote counting.
Thousands protested the results in Ankara on Tuesday, chanting "thief Tayyip!" Police forces responded by using water cannons to break up the protesters.
"Those who lost the elections should not use power cuts as an excuse for their defeat," Yıldız said after the opposition claimed it had evidence of election fraud in Ankara and planned to contest the results. Electricity cuts were reported outside of the capital as well, which Yıldız attributed to bad weather.
"Those who hid behind trees and green spaces in the Gezi Park [protests] are now hiding behind electric poles," he continued, referring to the mass anti-government protests that flared up last summer over the planned demolition of a rare green space in Istanbul. The demonstrations quickly became a sprawling sit-in where many Turks protested Erdogan’s crackdown on freedom of speech and the press.
Many Turks, as well as other critics around the world, turned to Twitter on Tuesday to mock the energy minister’s statement blaming a cat for the power outages. The site, along with YouTube, was recently banned by Erdogan, but many are accessing it through domain name servers (DNS) and virtual private networks (VPN). It didn't take long before the hashtag #kedilobisi, meaning cat lobby, started trending on the site Tuesday.
Many people also mocked the government by making cat memes showing villainous-looking felines. The use of a cat as a symbol against the government has been compared to penguin memes used last summer after Turkish mainstream media aired a documentary on penguins instead of covering the anti-government protests in Gezi Park.
While most Turks tweeted in Turkish, here are a few choice tweets in English poking fun at the government:
— Tamer Abdelaal (@zanesfather) April 1, 2014
— H.G. Masters (@HG_Masters) April 1, 2014
"My dog ate my homework" and now a cat caused the electricity cut that happened to blackout nearly half the country. #kedilobisi
— Battered Mustang (@edizsteel) April 1, 2014
— Arzu Geybulla (@arzugeybulla) April 1, 2014