During a hurried midnight taxi ride between Istanbul’s two major airports, the faces of Racep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s authoritarian president, and Binali Yildrim, Turkey’s former Prime Minister and Istanbul mayoral candidate, gazed down at me from every lamppost and roadside hoarding. I had been invited to Turkey by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) as part of a local election observation mission, and the omnipresent sight of these two moustachioed members of the ruling AK Party served as a reminder – if reminders were needed – that the elections would not occur on a level playing field. Turkey has been described by academics as a kind of hybrid electoral-authoritarian country. Its citizens are used to voting regularly and in relatively large numbers, even as the media and important state institutions are effectively under the tutelage of President Erdogan and his AKP. Recent plebiscites, including the 2017 referendum on switching to an anti-democratic presidential system, were marred by accusations of fraud and voter manipulation, but Turkey’s rulers nevertheless have cause to fear them. It is, despite President Erdogan’s best efforts to stack the deck in his own favour, possible for him to lose an election.
Turkey’s ruling party said Sunday that it will appeal for a full recount of all votes cast in Istanbul’s mayoral election, which the opposition narrowly won in a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the March 31 local elections, the opposition not only prevailed in a tight race in Istanbul’s financial and cultural center, it also took control of Ankara, the capital. Erdogan’s party, which held both cities for decades, contested the results, claiming the elections were “tainted.” The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won the right for a recount of votes previously deemed invalid. On Sunday, Ali Ihsan Yavuz, an AKP deputy chairman, said the party would appeal to the country’s top election authority for a total recount of votes in Istanbul’s 38 districts, not just of ballots that were canceled.
Turkey: Erdogan’s party challenges election results after apparent defeat in Turkey’s cities | The Washington Post
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party said Tuesday that it had submitted challenges to election results that showed its candidates had been defeated in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest cities, in local elections two days earlier that dealt a rare setback to Erdogan at the ballot box. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has repeatedly prevailed in elections since 2002 and was the leading vote-getter on Sunday. But its losses in major cities — including Istanbul, Turkey’s financial capital — were a significant symbolic defeat for Erdogan and threatened to weaken his powerful party machine, analysts said. The election came in the midst of an economic downturn that had focused voter anger on Erdogan’s handling of the crisis, analysts said. Urban voters may have also bristled at his caustic campaign rhetoric, they added, and his frequent attempts to link his political opponents to terrorism. The AKP challenged vote tallies in all of Istanbul’s 39 districts, where Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayoral candidate from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, was leading by about 25,000 votes.
Political parties in Turkey are crying foul after thousands of unlikely voters appeared on the electoral roll. Among the oddities are many first-time voters over 100 years old – and one aged 165. Opposition parties also said they had discovered more than 1,000 voters registered at a single apartment. The discovery comes ahead of local elections in March, in which President Erdogan’s AK Party may face its toughest political challenge in years. Turkey has faced economic stagnation in recent months, and the value of its currency is significantly lower than it was a year ago. That has led to speculation that the dominant AKP could lose several key cities, including the capital, Ankara. Opposition parties now say that voter lists are being manipulated.
Last month, an election in Turkey kept President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his coalition in power. But experts are puzzled by the results — and caution that the election was not free and fair. Videos of ballot stuffing — mostly in eastern Turkey — in favor of pro-Erdogan parties went viral after they were posted online on election day. And both partisan and nonpartisan reports showed that allegations of electoral irregularity came primarily from eastern Turkey. An opposition-written report stated that 68 percent of the election day violations took place in the east — areas where Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) experienced significant gains. A report published by an independent fact-checking organization largely supports these claims.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has signaled the bringing of local elections forward to November 2018 instead of March 2019, on the condition that opposition parties agree as the process requires a constitutional amendment. “I think holding local elections on the first or second Sunday of November, which corresponds to a date between Nov. 1 and 8, would be appropriate,” AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Mustafa Elitaş told the Demirören News Agency on July 2. “But three parties have to agree on that,” he added, in reference to the need to amend the constitution in order to change election dates. Elitaş’s statement followed comments from Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba, who fueled discussions by saying that the first year after a local election is usually “wasted” on preparations and orientation, and it would be better to spend the last months of the year on such preparations.
Turkish voters gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a decisive victory in national elections on Sunday, lengthening his 15-year grip on power and granting him vastly expanded authority over the legislature and judiciary. The election was the first to be held since Turkish voters narrowly approved a referendum last year to give the president — once a largely ceremonial role — sweeping executive powers. Mr. Erdogan will also have a pliant Parliament, with his conservative party and its allies having won about 53 percent of the vote in legislative elections on Sunday. Mr. Erdogan has overseen a crackdown on lawyers, judges, civil servants and journalists under a state of emergency declared after a failed coup two years ago. His critics had portrayed Sunday’s election as their last chance to prevent Turkey from becoming an authoritarian state.
The president begins his day with prayer, usually between 5 and 6 a.m. depending on when the sun rises. Then he spends half an hour on the treadmill and lifts weights. He has a light breakfast since he suffers from diabetes and drinks tea from the Black Sea. He reads memos from his advisers and the newspapers, usually the Islamist ones along with Sabah, which is run by a relative. At 8 a.m. Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets his chief of staff and his spokesman to go through the agenda for the day. At 11 a.m. he makes his way to the presidential palace. Erdogan lives with his wife in a villa on the grounds of the palace, which is located on a hill on the outskirts of Ankara. He had the palace built in 2014 and it’s a fortress that encompasses several buildings with a total of 1,000 rooms, a bunker and a clinic. Visitors are collected by car and brought by tunnel to the respective wing. The building is symbolic of the reign of this president: terrifying, powerful, isolated, controlled.
Turkey: Election watchdog removes key ballot security measure ahead of critical polls | Stockholm Center for Freedom
With four days to go until snap elections on June 24, Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has decided to remove a requirement that ballots be stamped by polling station officials in order to be considered valid and counted, according to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily. The YSK wrote in a recent circular that envelopes required the official stamp to be considered valid except in cases where there was no stamp from polling station officials but that the YSK emblem, watermark and stamps from the district electoral board were visible. According to a report by online news outlet Ahval, Twitter user Mahir Durmaz explained that the ballot box officials’ stamps were key to the security of the vote.
Turkey could stage another election if the alliance between President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the nationalist MHP party cannot form a majority in parliament after Sunday’s vote, the MHP leader said. Turks will vote on June 24 in presidential and parliamentary elections that will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last year. Polls suggest Erdogan’s alliance could narrowly lose its parliamentary majority, while the presidential vote may also go to a second round run-off.
A leaked video of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vote sparked fears of possible vote rigging ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 24. The video shows Erdogan telling party officials to secure majorities on ballot box monitoring committees to “finish the job in Istanbul before it has even started.” In the video, Erdogan also comments on the pro-Kurdish HDP: “I can’t speak these words outside [publicly]. I am speaking them with you here. Why? Because if the HDP falls below the election threshold, it would mean that we would be in a much better place.”
A soft-spoken parliamentarian, it’s easy to overlook Fatma Benli in a busy cafe until she starts recalling the disinformation campaign that nearly derailed her election bid two years ago. The small room we’re in begins to shudder as the sitting MP for the ruling AK Party passionately explains that she could have lost because of fake news and online narratives. “There was fake news circulating on every major social media platform,” the 44-year-old told Al Jazeera, reeling off a litany of examples where she and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were repeatedly attacked in spurious social media posts. “Facebook, Twitter, it came from all sides.”
“Who has a smartphone?” Muharrem Ince, the presidential nominee of Turkey’s main opposition party, asked the crowd during a recent rally in Denizli. “Now, you all start broadcasting,” he roared. “There is the government media, but there is also the people’s media.” Ince’s call for social media streaming of his rally was not just an effort to reach out to a wider audience, but also a protest. Ahead of Turkey’s critical presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24, opposition parties face an unprecedented blackout by mainstream television channels, almost all of which are now in pro-government hands. Although Ince and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) still manage to get some coverage, others like the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are virtually banished from the screens, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an omnipresent figure.
Pressure against Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish bloc is nothing new. But with under three weeks left before the June 24 presidential and parliamentary polls, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is being squeezed more tightly than ever. HDP officials charge that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to prevent the HDP from winning the minimum 10% of the vote needed to take seats in the parliament so as to ensure its continued dominance of the legislative body. Under Turkey’s convoluted rules, the first runner-up in a given electoral district picks up a party’s seat if it fails to scale the national barrier and in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, that would likely be the AKP. An estimated 80 seats are at stake.
Turkey’s main opposition parties are expected to announce a broad electoral alliance before general elections in June, a step that could pose a significant challenge to the dominance of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party. The deal, which will include the country’s largest secular and nationalist opposition blocs, is likely to dilute the Justice and Development party’s (AKP) control of the legislature and overcome the regulation that any party must receive 10% of the national vote to win a seat in parliament, a rule that has reinforced Erdoğan’s long-running majority. The coalition is expected to be formally announced on Thursday and will include the Republican People’s party (CHP), the İyi (Good) party, the Islamist Saadet party (SP) and the Democrat party (DP). The secularist CHP is the largest opposition grouping in parliament, and the newly formed İyi is composed primarily of nationalists. The İyi leader, Meral Akşener, has declared herself a presidential candidate.
A fledgling Turkish political party founded by a popular former interior minister will be allowed to run in snap June elections, authorities ruled on Sunday, after 15 parliamentarians from the main opposition switched parties to bolster its ranks. Turkey’s top electoral board ruled the nationalist Iyi (Good) Party would be allowed to participate in the polls, a board official said. President Tayyip Erdogan this week called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, more than a year earlier than scheduled. The announcement wrongfooted the troubled opposition and brings Erdogan closer to his long-sought goal of a presidency with sweeping executive powers.
President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called snap elections for June 24, saying economic challenges and the war in Syria meant Turkey must switch quickly to the powerful executive presidency that goes into effect after the vote. The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup in July 2016. It was extended by parliament on Wednesday for another three months. In 15 years of rule as prime minister and then president, Erdogan has transformed a poor, sprawling country at the eastern edge of Europe into a major emerging market. But Turkey’s rapid growth has come been accompanied by increased authoritarianism, with a security crackdown since the failed coup leading to the arrest of tens of thousands.
As fraud allegations over last year’s constitutional referendum continue to simmer, Turkey’s government last week rushed through parliament far-reaching changes to electoral rules, fueling fears over the integrity of upcoming polls and sparking opposition calls for an election boycott. In the April 16, 2017, referendum, which narrowly approved amendments concentrating power in the hands of the president, the Supreme Election…
Turkey’s parliament has approved a set of changes to the country’s electoral laws that critics say are aimed at helping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan consolidate power and could lead to election fraud. The changes were approved Tuesday after a tense, all-night session that saw altercations between nationalist and main opposition lawmakers. Turkey faces elections next year, when Erdogan will need to secure 51 percent of the vote to remain at the helm. The changes would allow Erdogan’s ruling party to enter a formal alliance with the nationalist party, permitting the smaller party to gain parliamentary seats even if it fails to pass the 10-percent electoral threshold. In turn, Erdogan would secure the nationalists’ continued support.
Turkey’s opposition said on Thursday new electoral regulations proposed by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies could open the door to fraud and jeopardise the fairness of 2019 elections. Under a draft law submitted to parliament on Wednesday, security force members will be allowed into polling stations when invited by a voter, a measure the government says will stamp out intimidation by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bill also grants the YSK High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts. Ballots will be admissible without the stamp of the local electoral board, formalising a decision made during a referendum last year that caused a widespread outcry among government critics and concern from election monitors.
Turkey’s main opposition leader launched a European court appeal on Tuesday over an April vote that granted President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers, stepping up his challenge to the government as he led a 425 km (265 mile) protest march. Erdogan accuses the protesters, marching from Ankara to Istanbul, of “acting together with terrorist groups”, referring to Kurdish militants and followers of a U.S.-based cleric who Ankara says was behind last year’s coup. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), hit back on Tuesday, defending his “justice march” and accusing the government of creating a one-party state in the wake of the failed putsch on July 15.
Turkey: Opposition party to challenge referendum on expanding presidential powers at European Court | Los Angeles Times
The question now is whether Europe can and will step in to keep Turkey’s leader from expanding his powers. Turkey’s main opposition party announced Wednesday it will challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 16 referendum victory to replace the country’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful “presidential system.” The opposition will ask the European Court of Human Rights to render judgment, a day after Turkey’s top administrative court ruled it lacked jurisdiction over the electoral body whose oversight of the voting has sparked daily nationwide protests. “We faced illegal referendum results after seeing an unverified election,” Selin Sayek Boke, a spokeswoman for the Republican People’s Party told journalists in Ankara. “Our priority is standing up for the legal rights of all citizens. Thus, we would like to announce that we will soon apply to the ECHR.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey on Thursday to answer questions raised by European observers over a referendum that expanded President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers and also said the EU must reflect on what future ties it wants with Ankara. A report by observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe found that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which ended in a narrow victory for Erdogan’s push for greater powers. “The Turkish government must measure itself based on this report and answer the questions raised in it,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. “We will very carefully follow how Turkey deals with reports of possible irregularities.”
Turkey’s ruling party and the main opposition party kept up their fight Saturday over the results of the referendum on expanding the president’s powers. In a series of tweets Saturday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag slammed the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for continuing to object to the results of the April 16 referendum due to voting irregularities, saying that judicial paths to reverse the ruling are shut. The CHP fired back, saying he was threatening the judiciary in order to get them to rule against the party’s case. Unofficial results show the “yes” campaign for transforming Turkey’s parliamentary government system into a presidential one garnered 51.4 percent of the vote. Official results by the electoral board are expected next week.
Turkey’s high election board has rejected formal calls by the country’s main opposition parties to annul the result of a referendum that will grant Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers as president. Voters narrowly approved a set of constitutional reforms that will transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential republic, concentrating power in the hands of Erdoğan, who will be able to run for two more terms and potentially govern until 2029. The Turkish president has been handed the chance to declare himself as the only fit protector of a besieged state and its vulnerable people The two main opposition parties – the Republican People’s party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic party (HDP) – had lodged formal complaints calling for the annulment of the result, citing a controversial last-minute decision by the board to allow the counting of possibly hundreds of thousands of unstamped ballots. The constitutional amendments passed with a margin of just over a million votes. International observers had said the decision to count the ballots “contradicted the law” and removed a safeguard against fraud.
Videos have emerged in Turkey of alleged ballot stuffing and polling station violations during the Sunday referendum that approved sweeping powers to the country’s president. Social media users circulated several videos, apparently showing violations on election day, including people voting more than once. In one video, a man who was identified by France 24 as Mehmet Koçlardan, the leader of a village in east Turkey from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is seen casting five votes into a ballot box. Another video shows an unidentified person stamping “yes” on five voting slips and piling them on a table.
Turkey’s top election authority has voted against annulling the referendum to further empower President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Main opposition parties had challenged the results following complaints of vote-rigging. Turkey’s high electoral board (YSK) rejected appeals from the country’s main opposition parties to annul the referendum results, the board said in a statement on Wednesday. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish HDP had called on the electoral board to annul Sunday’s referendum because unstamped ballot papers were included in the count. They argued that this contravened Turkish electoral law. The board overwhelmingly voted to reject the parties’ appeals.
A village leader shoves four voting slips into a ballot box. An unknown arm marks three slips with a “yes” vote. An unknown hand adds five more. An election official validates a pile of voting slips — hours after they were meant to be validated. These are four of the scenes captured in unverified videos that have helped stoke accusations of voting fraud in polling stations across Turkey during Sunday’s referendum to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan’s “yes” campaign has claimed victory by a small margin — 51.4 percent to 48.6 — in a vote that further insulates the president from scrutiny and tightens his grip on one of the most influential countries in the region. But while Mr. Erdogan has turned his claimed victory into a political reality, the legitimacy of his win is still in question.
International election monitors have criticized a Turkish referendum that has brought sweeping new powers to the presidency, saying the campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and that the vote count was marred by late procedural changes. Observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said in a joint statement on April 17 that the legal framework for the referendum “remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum.” Turkey’s Central Election Committee (CEC) late on April 16 declared the “yes” camp as the winner with 51.3 percent of votes.
Up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Sunday’s Turkish referendum which ended in a tight ‘Yes’ vote for greater presidential powers, Alev Korun, an Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission, told ORF radio on Tuesday. The mission of observers from the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, had already said the referendum was an uneven contest. Support for “Yes” dominated campaign coverage, and the arrests of journalists and closure of media outlets silenced other views, the monitors said. But Korun said there were questions about the actual voting as well.