At least 25,000 election monitors are planning to fan out across Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, to prevent fraud during local elections on March 30 as governing and opposition parties warn of ballot rigging. A civil movement called “Vote and Beyond” is mobilizing the volunteers to monitor and provide evidence to political parties if they fall victim to possible irregularities, said Sercan Celebi, a spokesman for the movement said by phone today. Other monitors plan to work in the second city, Ankara.
The local poll is a critical test for the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has been ensnared in a corruption probe allegedly implicating senior ministers and members of their families since December. While opinion polls have fluctuated in the lead up to the vote, there’s evidence that the premier’s reputation has suffered, with a poll by Ankara-based MetroPOLL last month showing his approval rating down to 43.5 percent last month from 59.1 percent a year before.
Yesterday, Erdogan’s ruling party and opposition parties urged their supporters to be extra vigilant when votes are counted after the March 30 vote. Suspicions of possible fraud are fueled by March 11 theft of stamps used by voters to mark parties on ballot sheets in Istanbul. Irregularities marred some past Turkish elections, including the 1994 municipal vote that saw Erdogan elected as mayor of Istanbul.