The announcement of the results of every population census, or the address-based population registration system as it is now called, takes me back many years to 1985. I think of what happened in the census conducted that year and the irregularities aimed at overestimating the population. Of course, the fact that we experience similar irregularities before every election is not forgotten. Prior to the March 31 local elections, there were allegations that voters were registered in places where they were not supposed to be, and that some places had more voters than the people residing there.
If you say, “Okay, we understand all this; we already know all this, but what about Dallas?”, I will tell you a very tragicomic story.
Population growth rate is 1 per thousand but…
Turkey’s population growth rate dropped dramatically to 1.1 per thousand last year. The population growth rate was 7.1 per thousand in 2022.
In 2023, we have a huge loss due to the earthquake disaster. It seems that the number of citizens we lost in the earthquake is not 53,547 as claimed. Murat Kurum has already stated out of the blue that the loss is actually 130 thousand people. We do not know exactly how much the loss is, but at least we know that it is not 53,547 as claimed. Therefore, this is a factor in the very low total population growth rate.
Moreover, the 253 thousand decrease in the foreign population residing in Turkey had a major impact on the decline in the rate of increase last year. When a calculation is made without taking the foreign population into account, the population growth rate is 4.1 per thousand.
However, the rate of 4.1 per thousand is also very low. Turkey’s population is aging.
We have aged 10 years since 2000
The population is aging, and this is clearly reflected in the data.
The median age of the Turkish population was 24.8 in 2000. Not even a quarter of a century later, the median age in 2023 was 34.
The lowest median age in the years of the census was in 1970. The median age that year was only 19.
The median age increased by about six years in the thirty years from 1970 to 2000, and by about ten years in the following twenty-three years.
Let’s talk about this “Ceyar” issue…
In 1985, the population was not yet determined by the address-based population registration system (ADNKS) and the census was conducted under curfew. When the 1985 census was completed, the reports received by the then State Institute of Statistics, now TurkStat, were full of oddities.
It was so obvious that major irregularities had been committed in the census. This irregularity was the result of an effort to overestimate the population. The aim was to overestimate the population of a locality in order to get more money from the budget.
So what were the irregularities?
Eleven people could be written on each population form. If 5 people lived in a household, why would the “right” of 6 people be under-reported to Ankara. In some regions, this “right” was used to the fullest. The officials filling in the population forms were obviously bored and wanted to have some fun. It was not always going to be Ahmet, Mehmet, Ayşe, Fatma as the imaginary population, so what could be wrong with writing some foreign names!
At that time, there was only TRT television, and the TV series that had the whole of Turkey glued to the screen was Dallas. What were the heroes of Dallas for? The officials started filling in the population forms with JR, Su Ellen, Bobby, Lucy. But of course, this was not how the names were written on the forms, they were transferred as Ceyar, Suelın, Babi, Lusi, as it was heard. Obviously the people who wrote these names had a lot of fun.
This is as good as it gets. Those who thought, “No one would notice anyway”, had no problem completing the form to 11 by writing 9 children even for the childless district governor of the district they lived in.
In the meantime, the SIS administrators of the time tried very hard to cover up this irregular writing. But it did not work, the truth could not be covered up, those mistakes were corrected and the population was reduced considerably compared to the first announced level. In fact, this census resulted in the dismissal of the then head of the SIS.
In other words, we are a society that has made JR, an American rancher, into Ceyar Efendi, an Anatolian shopkeeper.
Therefore, we have a long experience in such “operations”. In the March 31st elections, unfortunately, it will not be surprising to see similar “little tricks” such as registering fictitious voters, especially in small places where the presidency can change hands by a few thousand votes.