Ballot boxes for the critical presidential and parliamentary elections opened in Turkey on Sunday morning. More than 56 million registered voter will decided whether to give super powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the contest participate 8 political parties and 6 presidential candidates, with one of them -Demirtas from Kurdish HDP – in prison since 2016. Hour by hour, though, reports and allegations about fraud and irregularities are increasing.
- More than 56 million registered voter, 180,000 ballot boxes across Turkey. Voting began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and will end at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT). First results are expected four hours later.
The elections will usher in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.
“This stability must continue and that can happen with Erdogan so I voted for him,”janitor Mehmet Yildirim, 48, in Istanbul, told reuters. “I also think that with Erdogan, we stand stronger against the West.”
Erdogan, the most popular but also divisive leader in modern Turkish history, moved the elections forward from November 2019, arguing the new powers would better enable him to tackle the nation’s mounting economic problems – the lira has lost 20 percent against the dollar this year – and deal with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
But Erdofan has a main rival: Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanized Turkey’s long-demoralised and divided opposition.
Addressing a rally in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people, Ince promised to reverse what he and opposition parties see as a swing toward authoritarian rule under Erdogan in the country of 81 million people.
“If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to … Fear will continue to reign … If Ince wins, the courts will be independent,” said Ince, adding he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected.
Ince rally in CHP stronghold Izmir on Friday. “Opposition rallies are fake news,” shout Erdogan supporters on social media.
Veysel Emre Yersel, 37, real estate agent, told Aljazeera right after voting in Kadikoy, Istanbul: “An authoritarian regime is in making and democratic standards are falling. I want to wake up to a better Turkey tomorrow with a new government and more diversity.
Free and Fair elections?
Hardly. Elections are taking place under emergency rule that restricts some personal freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with emergency decrees. Emergency rule has been imposed since July 2016, after the failed coup for which Erdogan blames his former ally, Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen. In an unprecedented purge, more than 160,000 people have been detained and an equal number of civil servants has been sacked.
In an atmosphere of “whoever is Erdogan’s opponent is a terrorist” and of persecution fear just a few media dare to openly criticize the government. Erdogan has received far more election coverage than other presidential candidates, on Saturday broadcast of Ince’s rally was interrupted for the sake of Recep.
Democracy has declined very fast, a large portion of Turks and Kurds say “democracy is in terrible shape, human rights are been violated.”
Ballot boxes manipulations
Speculations have it that the government will try to fix the results. A storm of lawsuits was submitted by opposition on Saturday, after state-run agency Anadolu displayed on its TV that “Erdogan received 53% of votes” two days before the elections.
- 650,000 volunteers including 415,000 ballot box committee members, 250,000 voluntary observers are closely monitoring procedures at the ballot boxes.
More than 60 ballot boxes volunteers of HDP were arrested in Ankara and other cities of Kurdish-dominant areas of Turkey on Saturday.
On Sunday there have been several allegations of fraud and law violations at polling stations, especially in Kurdish-dominant South-East Turkey. Should their party HDP enter the parliament, Erdogan’s AKP will lose the majority.
Already before Sunday noon, there are several reports about irregularities and elections law violations. In some polling stations, double ballots have been found, in others, ballots from other areas.
- The most serious incident so far has taken place in Soruc, Kurdish Urfa, SE Turkey. According to reports that ballot boxes have been filled with ballots while the elections process still ongoing. These ballot boxes have been cancelled and rendered void on the insistence of the election observers. Voting process has been currently paused.
Supreme Electoral Board chair Sadi Güven announced “there are claims of security in Suruç; necessary administrative and judiciary steps have been taken.”
OSCE representative Audrey Glover announced in Ankara OSCE has not sent any observers to Urfa’s Suruç where many violation complaints are coming from, due to security reasons.
Villagers in the Kurdish Province of Van walked eight kilometers to cast their vote in a neighboring village in Sunday’s elections. Last month, authorities moved a number of ballot boxes in 19 provinces, affecting 140,000 voters.-via Kurdistan News
According to reports coming from Sanliurfa, SE Turkey, there are attempts to hinder the elections process.
CHP party council member and manager of Ballot-Box Power Mehmet Ali Çelebi announced that 30 of their observers have been forcefully removed from ballot boxes in almost 30 villages in Urfa.
Two people were beaten at a polling station in Urfa.
AKP-stamped ballots have been reported in Diyarbakır’s Kulp at Zeyrek village. Fighting erupted due to objections, one of the ballot-box committee members held a firearm; military personnel and village guards entered the school with firearms. – via dokuz8news
Ballot-box committee members in Ankara’s Altındağ at Nazife Hatun Primary School have entered the voting cabin with illiterate elderly citizens, advising them to vote for “Erdoğan’s party.” – via dokuz8news.
6 Presidential Candidates, 8 Parties
Polls show Erdogan falling short of a first-round victory in the presidential race. He needs to receive more than 50% of the votes. He would be expected to win a run-off on July 8, though.
Presidential candidates June 23, 2018:
- Erdogan 44.5%
- Ince 28.3%
- Aksener (conservative) 13.5%
- Demirtas (HDP) 11.5%
- two more with total 2.2%
Parliament – Parties June 14-20, 2018:
- AKP 46.7%
- CHP 26.3%
- MHP (Grey Wolves/right-wing) 6.9%
- HDP 11.2%
- IYI (Aksener/right-wing) 6.8%
- SP & others 2.2%
Should pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) manage to exceed the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, Erdogan’s AK Party could lose its parliamentary majority.
In this case, Erdogan may gain superpowers but tensions with the parliament are expected to be inevitable.
With Islamists and right-wingers receiving in opinion polls a total of 60%, the future of conservative Turkey has been sealed long ago. The parties of urban middle- and upper class center-right Ozal/Demirel/Yilmaz/Ciller have disappeared from the political landscape forever.