Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Turkish mobilize to ensure fair play in a tight election

AFP, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Supporters of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party attend a rally in Diyarbakir on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

One hundred people listen to presentations crammed into a room in Istanbul, defying the oppressive summer heat and attentively taking notes.

Their aim — to ensure Sunday’s elections in Turkey are not marred by election fraud.

Opposition parties, associations and members of the public have united in an unprecedented way to organize monitoring of the polling stations to check for any irregularities.

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeking a new mandate as well as a majority for his ruling party, the margins could be tight and activists want to ensure there is not the slightest risk of foul play swinging the results.

Turkey generally has an excellent record in election transparency and producing results that are accepted by all sides, but the implementation of a controversial new election law and accusations by the opposition of irregularities in a referendum on a new constitution in April last year has intensified interest in election monitoring.

“We are worried. The referendum had a major impact on us,” said Selcan, 35, who was taking part in a training workshop in Istanbul organized by Turkish election transparency non-governmental organization Oy ve Otesi (Vote and Beyond).

Selcan and thousands of others like her will be in position on Sunday in polling stations in Istanbul and across the nation, watching keenly for any contraventions.

“The more monitoring there is, the less problems there are going to be,” said Gozde Elif Soyturk, the head of Oy ve Otesi, which is looking to train 50,000 to 60,000 monitors before the vote.

Associations had to rush to organize themselves and get to grips with the new election rules after Erdogan called the snap polls, bringing them forward from the scheduled date of November next year.

A measure that has been of particular controversy has been accepting ballot papers without the official stamp of the election authorities as valid votes.

The Turkish Supreme Election Commission (YSK) first accepted such ballot papers in the referendum, prompting the opposition to cry foul, saying one of the main barriers to ballot-stuffing had been removed.

“This will truly be the main thing to watch,” said Yasemin Ulusan, a lawyer with the Istanbul bar who has been organizing seminars for colleagues who want to observe the elections.

For Sunday’s polls, about 30 bar associations have united to send lawyers to the polling stations.

“From Sunday 6:30 am we will put in place a crisis center” to receive any complaints, Ulusan said.

In a sign of their concern, the opposition parties have joined together to create a “Platform for a Fair Election” which is to carry out a parallel count with the help of a mobile app that can be downloaded on observers’ smartphones.

The aim, according to Onursal Adiguzel, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is to “protect the ballot of the voter, whatever party they voted for.”

Erdogan’s main rival in the presidential race, Muharrem Ince of the CHP, has declared he plans to “camp” outside the Ankara headquarters of the YSK after voting on Sunday.

Another, more traditional safeguard, comes from international observers, with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe deploying a mission of 12 staff in Ankara and 22 long-term observers across the nation to monitor the conduct of the polls.

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