Ankara (GPA) – Another Turkish election has come to an end but, as always, no AKP victory comes without a host of claims of fraud and intimidation.
It seems like incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have another successful Turkish election under their belt. However, like every election they win, this one seems to be racked by claims of foul play ranging from stuffing ballot boxes and distractions to arrests and violence at polling places.
Starting our list of election violations at the lowest level we begin with the actual process of voting. Much like in any country where a strongman is looking to clinch a tight race, the pro-AKP forces seemingly turned to stuffing the ballot boxes. There were several claims of this around different regions of Turkey but primarily in the extremely pro-Kurdish southeast where there were several videos taken of alleged violations.
It’s not even midday but allegations of vote rigging emerge in southeastern town of #Urfa. Video appears to show a bulk of ballot papers cast into box, and observers unable to stop fraud. In preelection tension, 4 people had lost their lives in Urfa#TurkeyElection via @bbcturkce pic.twitter.com/1Mk0YXpNEw
— Selin Girit (@selingirit) June 24, 2018
Complaints of ballot stuffing hit record levels in the regions where there is a strong pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) but the government also turned to other dirty tricks such as denying access to polling places and keeping rural voters from entering the villages where they have to vote. These kinds of violations were reported both by Turkish media outlets as well as those from the west such as BBC’s Turkish language site.
One Turkish site released a video that is alleged to show polling workers sitting with a full ballot box despite the fact that nobody had been in allowed the polling place to actually cast a ballot.
Mass open voting has been caught in Urfa’s Suruç at GAP Anadolu High School at ballot-boxes 1043 & 1044; Ballot-box committee has refused to comment.pic.twitter.com/v5CBMPCDyw
— dokuz8NEWS (@dokuz8_EN) June 24, 2018
There were other peculiar aspects to the voting reported to Geopolitics Alert by a Turkish poll worker who wishes to remain anonymous. According to this source, there were questions among them and their fellow election workers who were still delivering cars full of ballots at 10 pm Turkish time even though the AKP had essentially declared victory sometime around 7 pm. The source went on to tell us, that even his “friends who were very close to the election centers delivered their boxes after [7:20 pm].”
This gap between when the AKP declared victory and when the final ballots were being cast places some of the results of the election in doubt. This preemptive declaration of victory was also taking place during the election coverage of most Turkish media outlets (which are either state-owned or run by pro-AKP oligarchs). Even as the US media was reporting that only fifty percent of the vote was counted and the election was far from over, Turkish outlets like TRT were reporting that between 80-85% of ballots were counted and the AKP had won.
Beyond just the typical vote manipulation there were also some more strongarm tactics used at several polling places. One such intimidation tactic was the arrest of over 80 voters on warrants for alleged ties to the Gulen movement. This is likely untrue since nobody arrested since the coup has actually claimed to have ties to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. This has never stopped the AKP from using alleged Gulen ties to arrest opponents and this didn’t stop during the election.
There were also arrest warrants served on Saturday for seven HDP officials, including polling workers “for the planning of provocative actions.” This was seen as part of the ongoing attempt by Erdogan to stifle the resurgent HDP, who still managed to obtain the 10% of the vote necessary to enter parliament.
Erdogan’s focus on the HDP was exposed earlier in the election when a video leaked of the President speaking to party members, in which he told his allies:
“Friends, our party organization should work differently when it comes to the HDP. I won’t talk about this outside. I am speaking to you here — why? Because [the HDP] remaining under the threshold means our situation [in the elections] will be better.”
The video seems to signal that Erdogan directly approved some level of voter fraud, telling his friends that they should keep “tight marking” on votes in HDP bastions. Another video from the same day also showed Erdogan in a meeting off to the side where he instructed his cronies to make sure the AKP made up a majority of polling staff in Istanbul to “finish the job in Istanbul before it has even started.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) took all of this into consideration and also reported that they believed Turkish elections were highly impacted by “restrictions on freedom.” As if to prove the OSCE right, rather than improve the Turkish election system, the government instead kept two of the watchdog’s observers from entering the country.
These are only the preliminary entries in what is sure to be a growing list of violations as details continue to emerge from Turkey. The polls may have closed but this was another tight race for Erdogan, and despite being able to arrest the opposition and controlling the media, he still had to cheat. The opposition the AKP has been revitalized and the fight for Turkey will continue.