In Turkey, a raki commercial goes viral for its political undertones

A screenshot from Yeni Raki commercial advertisement video.

This year, on October 29, the Republic of Turkey will celebrate its 100th anniversary since its founding in 1923. Ahead of this important date, a local raki brand, Yeni Raki released a new commercial with some political undertones. The ad targets an international audience and the Turkish diaspora since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced bans on alcohol advertisements in 2013. There is, however, a potential subtext for those living in Turkey and the country's observers. The commercial starts with the question: “How will you celebrate when that day comes?” As Turkey heads into one of the most crucial general elections on May 14, it was not the 100th-anniversary celebrations that came to mind, but rather the celebrations that will take place if, after twenty years of rule, the AKP loses.

The video is filled with dance moves, lots of smiles, and singing, though arguably the most powerful moment is near the end of the ad, when a woman looks at the camera and says she will celebrate by going back. Many interpreted it as a message to all expat Turks — especially those who have left Turkey in recent years as a result of the lack of economic opportunities and increasing conservatism.

Louis Fishman, a long-time Turkey observer, tweeted: “‘When that day comes’ is the latest (bold) ad for Turkey's alcohol brand, Yeni Raki, suggesting to the viewer it's over the sheer joy of an opposition win in the upcoming elections but then reveals it's actually celebrating the Republic's centennial.” Another Twitter user pointed out, the centennial celebrations were six months away, and yet, Yeni Raki released the ad three weeks before the election.

AKP's feud with alcohol and non-Muslim lifestyles

As Nazli Ertan wrote in 2021, “Ever since 2002, a string of laws and regulations adopted under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sought to make alcohol impossible to advertise and promote, expensive to drink, and unprofitable to sell.”

The first restrictions came in 2002 when the newly elected AKP introduced the Special Consumption Tax. As a result, the taxes on alcohol went from 18 percent to an astounding 48 percent. But the hikes did not stop there. At the time of writing this story, the tax rate on alcoholic beverages has exceeded 250 percent, according to the reporting by The Independent.

In 2009, it imposed limitations on alcohol advertisements that made it practically impossible to advertise wine, beer, or rakı, and four years later, in 2013, it banned alcohol advertisements altogether. Also in 2013, the state also introduced bans on alcohol sales after 10 pm. Additionally, no alcohol may be sold within 100 meters of a mosque or a school.

Things have been restricted further since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, AKP implemented midnight curfews on events, which are still in place today. During the pandemic, the government announced its plan to ban alcohol sales during the pandemic-related mandated curfew.


Given the history of restrictions, it was not at all surprising to see the hashtag #OGünGeldiğinde (When that day comes) trending on Twitter with the release of the Yeni Raki commercial. Scores of Twitter users flooded the platform tweeting dance emojis and sharing their hopes for an AKP defeat.

The nightmare that started 20 years ago will end where it started.

The commercial had other hidden nuances, too, like a group of students celebrating outside the campus of Bogazici University, where protests have been raging since February 2021 when the state appointed a rector with ties to the ruling party.

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