After local elections on March 30, Turkish opposition figures are up in arms, claiming to have incontrovertible evidence of widespread voting fraud and calling into question the institutional integrity of Turkey’s electoral system for the first time in recent history. While criticized for many other democratic deficiencies since the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey has generally been recognized by the international community as holding free and fair elections. The majoritarian victories and even consistent electoral gains of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) over the last three general elections were accepted as legitimate. Unprecedented as they were, these election wins were understood mainly as approval of the tangible benefits available to AKP supporters during Turkey’s period of sustained economic growth and general political apathy or lack of a credible alternative among its opposition rather than as any kind of electoral foul play.
As opposition members presciently suggested before last Sunday’s elections, however, growing indicators pointed to AKP’s attempts to tilt the votes in its favor, no matter the cost. Independent news reports confirm what thousands of poll station volunteers have been tweeting and posting, circumventing the government’s already highly criticized bans on Twitter and YouTube to document instances of ballots pre-marked for the AKP, votes for opposition parties discarded, massive registration irregularities, armed attacks on opposition supporters and vehicles, and voting by undocumented Syrian refugees incentivized by AKP groups. For the quantitatively inclined, preliminary analysis of voting in the hotly contested mayoral race in Ankara, for example, demonstrates a statistically significant relationship between ballot boxes with greater numbers of invalid votes and ballot boxes favoring the AKP. Many more ballots were recorded for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, or CHP) at polling stations in Ankara than were registered at the Supreme Election Board, and election monitors claim that the ballot box used by Ankara’s CHP candidate Mansur Yavas contained zero votes for his own party. Clearly, something is newly amiss in Turkey’s elections.
Full Article: ‘No Opposition, No Democracy’ in Turkey’s elections.