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.
Because this area has a majority-Kurdish population, election observers were surprised at the increased support for pro-Erdogan nationalist parties that suffered significant losses in the rest of the country, despite years of tensions between Erdogan’s government and Kurds.
To sort out the competing claims by pro-government and opposition sources, I examined data at the ballot-box level. I found a significant level of overlap between the geographical distribution of this unprecedented electoral result and that of some electoral anomalies. These include: excess votes per boxes, high levels of spoiled ballots, and noticeable differences in the amount of parliamentary and presidential ballots in the same box.