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Erdoğan’s communications directorate spent $14 mln for election messaging in April

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Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate spent nearly TL 283 million ($14.3 million) in April in an apparent move to promote President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his election campaign in the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections, the Birgün daily reported on Wednesday.

Before the elections, Turkey’s main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Erdoğan’s main rival in the presidential race, raised concerns over potential cyber interference in the vote count, warning Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on social media about possible “Cambridge Analytica-style” tactics.

Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct British political consulting firm, became infamous for its involvement in the manipulation of voter data and targeted political advertising during the 2016 US presidential election. The company’s tactics have since become synonymous with data privacy violations and unethical practices in election campaigns.

Altun plays a crucial role in shaping and disseminating the government’s messaging under President Erdoğan’s administration. The directorate, established in 2018, has faced criticism for its perceived efforts to manipulate public perception in favor of Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government while also spreading disinformation about the president’s opponents.

According to Birgün, the directorate drew attention by making its highest expenditure of the first quarter in April, which witnessed intensified misinformation being spread about Kılıçdaroğlu and his Nation Alliance, an opposition bloc of six political parties.

Official figures showed that the directorate spent TL 282,963,000 ($14.3 million) in April, which corresponds to 43.7 percent of its total expenditure of TL 647,073,000 ($32.7 million) during the first quarter of 2023.

Allocated a budget of TL 1,631,576,000 ($82.5 million) for 2023, the directorate already spent 40 percent of its total budget in the January-April period, an indication that it is likely to exceed its initial budget by the end of the year, Birgün said.

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