ALL IN ONE LOOK!
When the “Public Alliance” -formed by Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)- declared the local elections of March 31st a “survival issue, the elections gained the form of ‘general elections’. CHP and (İyi) New Party had in return formed the “People’s Alliance.”
– Public alliance (AKP + MHP) received a total of 52% of votes, but received a big strike through losing the largest provinces: Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya and Adana. HDP -the 3rd largest party in Turkey, but marginalized by both alliances- contributed to this result by not nominating any candidates in large provinces.
– Duty periods of High Electoral Council (YSK) members, taken under Erdoğan’s control with legal regulations and emergency decrees, have been extended for another year despite their deadline three months ago. No balance was looked after between the parties during the propaganda process, the Public Alliance used government resources for one-sided benefit.
– Objections against tricks and frauds in ballot lists were denied by YSK. Police and the military raided People’s Democratic Party (HDP) offices. Soldiers arrived in Kurdish provinces and other municipalities under trustee administration, voted for the elections and disappeared once again. Binali Yıldırım announced that they won the elections in Istanbul in the night of the elections, whereas information flow was cut to TV channels for 13 hours.
– When the results were finally revealed, AKP ordered the votes to be recounted over and over again in Istanbul in order to balance and – if possible – prevent the emotional consequences of the results; making objections against finalized ballot lists and elected candidates.
– YSK publicly announced its decision -which can not be legally objected- on May 6th.. They canceled only the Istanbul elections, setting forth that the balloting committees were illegally formed and balloting president and officers included non public workers. The re-run will take place on 23 June 2019 .
Erdoğan and the AKP is the sole ruling power in Turkey since 2002. The first years have been relatively stable, directed by EU-membership negotiations, only to be reversed afterwards. The turmoil that started with the Gezi Park protests continued with burning bridges with the Gülen community, which worked in collaboration with the AKP since the beginning. A state of emergency was declared afterwards following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016 that led the country to an administration without legislation and judiciary. This state was later legitimized with a Constitutional amendment. The state of emergency finally ended after two years, but a number of legal and administrative changes made during the state of emergency persisted, leading to a “Permanent State of Emergency.” Parliamentary system has ended and Erdoğan has become the sole executive power as the first “President” of Modern Turkey. The local elections on March 31, 2019 were treated as an extraordinary general elections by the Public Alliance. The ruling AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance treated the elections as a “survival” issue of the country. During the elections, the worsening economy has reflected onto daily lives of the people as well, leading to moral destruction of the ruling power.
Before an evaluation of the elections, amendments and applications in electoral legislations made within the last two years must be remembered:
– The Constitutional authority of the High Electoral Board (YSK) to monitor TV and radio channels in accordance with the principle of objectivity was revoked with a Statutory Decree issued within the State of Emergency.
– As the voting continued during the Referendum held in 2017, YSK has unlawfully accepted unsealed envelopes as valid votes.
– With a Constitutional amendment made with a referendum, the rule that the Ministers of the Interior, Justice and Transportation to be assigned by neutral parties was revoked. These seats were now directly assigned by the President.
– The same referendum revoked the principle of Presidential neutrality. Erdoğan has publicly – and not illegally, as before – attended election propaganda, organizing rallies as President and a party member.
– Amendments were made in the electoral law in 26 March 2018 that would lead to consequences for the benefit of the ruling party and to allow manipulation of elections. Despite fulfilled duty periods of YSK members, this period was extended for at least another year, three months before the elections. These changes effected the Presidential elections held on 24 June 2018.
Many objections were made against elector records together with the announcement of the electoral calendar. The majority of objections made by the main opposition party, especially in Istanbul, were denied by YSK. YSK Chairman Sadi Güven made an announcement in January, saying, “There is no fake electors, no ghost electors.”
As Public Alliance units used public resources unequally, Erdoğan has also benefited from all resources of Presidency in order to conduct his party’s electoral campaign, organizing rallies. For instance, public TV channel TRT assigned 10 times more time to AKP-MHP alliance broadcasts than the opposition campaigns. People’s Democratic Party (HDP), on the other hand, was not assigned any time – except when targeted by the ruling party.
Erdoğan stated that all citizens not supporting himself are “enemies” with connections to terrorist organizations, dividing the country into two. The opposition was targeted in every opportunity and was threatened with “the judiciary.” Government authorities, especially Erdoğan, announced that they will not allow opposition party candidates to perform their duties – even in case they win the elections. Opposition candidates were “tagged” by media organizations and ministers have “scolded” citizens. Erdoğan has once again used “social fear” in order to protect his power and defined dire economic situation as an “economical terror,” claiming that it is a new game played on Turkey.
According to the data of the Human Rights Association (IHD), 13 attacks/police raids were experienced during the election process, nine against HDP. Seven people were injured during these incidents, including 3 MPs. 713 HDP MPs were detained, 107 were arrested and the party experienced bans 11 times.
ELECTION DAY AND AFTERWARDS
The first shadow on the actual electoral process was casted with the statement of Binali Yıldırım in the night of March 31st, around 23:20. “We have won the elections,” Yıldırım said. Simultaneously, Anadolu Agency (AA) has stopped information flow to media organizations. The public agency has been accused, previously, of various manipulation of multiple elections. Therefore, the cut in the information slow has strengthened such prior allegations. There is still no convincing statement made on the reason for this cut. Following 13 hours of blackout, YSK announced that CHP is ahead in Istanbul. Hence, AKP stated that they will object against the results. In the next stage, AKP and supporters have started asserting that the votes were “stolen.”
As a result of the local elections, AKP has become the leading winning party. However, CHP candidates have won in five of the six largest provinces in Turkey, including Istanbul and Ankara. HDP has reclaimed a majority of the municipalities, which were under trustee administration. The ruling party, however, announced the elections “suspicious” in the provinces they lost. The election results, which were previously described as “the national will” were this time described as “a coup attempt.” Thus, pre-election threats were effectively executed through the suspension of announcement of the elections results due to successive objections, suspension of election certificates handed to elected candidates priorly dismissed with emergency decrees, and through the assignment of losing candidates for local administrative positions.
Votes were recounted in the provinces after the objection of the AKP, whereas YSK did not go through the same procedure in provinces won by the ruling party. For instance, none of the objections made in provinces with AKP winning with very little difference from HDP were accepted by District Electoral Councils. On the other hand, meetings and demonstrations were banned by the local administrations in many provinces with winning HDP candidates or where HDP candidates have lost with little difference.
According to a research by dokuz8Haber website, 167 different objections were examined. Only 3 objections made by HDP (in provinces they already have won the elections) were accepted; whereas 68 of the 78 objections made by AKP were accepted. The objection acceptance numbers were 8 out of 30 applications for İyi (Good) Party candidates and 7 out of 16 applications for CHP candidates. On the other hand, 11 of 16 objections made by Public Alliance unit MHP were accepted.
The elections were tied, especially in Istanbul. Announcement of election results were prevented by the AKP and MHP with successive re-counting of votes; as the President declared the entirety of elections in Istanbul “irregular.” Claiming that “the votes were stolen” despite all authority and public resources in its hands, the ruling party made history by stating that these votes were stolen only for the elections for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. So there was no “suspicion” in districts with the majority of votes won by the AKP. Previously claiming that only one vote is enough to win the elections, this time Erdoğan stated, “Don’t let anyone think that they can win the elections with a difference of 13-14 thousand votes.” Erdoğan had previously claimed, regarding the objections made against previous election results, that it’s “too late.” This time, Erdoğan’s party accused CHP of “hurrying” by claiming their election certificates.
As AKP seeked to cancel the elections in Istanbul, security forces went on an “elector hunt.” Attempting to create evidence for a non-existing crime, police officers went door to door without any legal basis, checking ballot records previously finalized by YSK. The votes, made within nine hours, could not be counted for days on end. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu could only receive his election certificate 17 days after the elections. AKP, on the other hand, made an extraordinary objection at YSK for the cancellation of the elections and to hold re-elections in Istanbul.
The extraordinary objection letter claimed that ballot counts and records were unsealed, votes were recorded wrong, that there were lost envelopes, that only a limited number of electors have used their votes and that there were various arbitrariness in ballot councils. AKP has even claimed that those victimized with Statutory Decrees issued within the State of Emergency can not have a right to vote.
HOW LEGAL ARE THE OBJECTIONS?
Objections against ballot lists and records were finalized before the elections. Therefore, accepting such objections after the elections will not be in accordance to the currently existing law. On the other hand, the ruling AKP and its partner MHP were those primarily supporting the strength of the legislation on (heavily criticized) electoral registers. Now the same parties are claiming that electoral registers are arbitrary, seeking to cancel the elections. Furthermore, claiming that tens of thousands of citizens, previously dismissed from public service with emergency decrees without any judicial decrees against them, have no right to vote is to confess that no Constitutional right is guaranteed in the country.
On the other hand, YSK has unlawfully made discrimination on behalf of the ruling party in objections against election results. Thousands of soldiers, police officers and village guards were transferred to Şırnak to determine the election results. Objections by HDP for Şırnak were denied. YSK decided that allegations of arbitrariness in previously finalized electoral registers in Şırnak can not be a reason to cancel the elections with extraordinary objections. The same council is now investigating on the same allegations in Istanbul, when the allegation is made by the ruling party.
Similarly, the application made by İYİ (Good) Party with the allegation that ballot councils were established unlawfully in Mustafakemalpaşa (district of Bursa) was denied due to “the objections against ballot councils were finalized by YSK on March 2, 2019 in accordance with the electoral calendar.” In accordance with this verdict, all objections against the establishment of ballot councils must be denied after March 2, 2019. However, it was not the case in Istanbul.
On the other hand, handing of electoral certificates were suspended in many provinces with winning HDP candidates. Candidacies of those previously dismissed from public service with emergency decrees were approved by YSK prior to the elections; whereas after the elections, it was decided that they can not be handed the election certificates. Hence, not the elected candidate but the losing candidate was assigned as mayor, neglecting the will of the majority. As electoral certificates were given to AKP candidates unlawfully, trustees were effectively assigned to municipalities through YSK.
According to HDP records, 14,284 elector registers, almost completely of security forces, were transferred to various provinces and districts in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolian regions. A high number of security forces were assigned in locations where a low number of electors can make changes in election results, influencing the results on behalf of the AKP.
The balloting committees are appointed by YSK and electoral committees. If the appointments are illegal, then YSK itself holds responsibility. Moreover, the same interpretation applies to the 24 June 2018 – Presidential elections. Should those elections be renewed as well? But according the 79th article of the Constitutional Law decisions made by YSK are final, and can not be objected to any authority what so ever. What happens now?
March 31st revealed that the ruling party does not accept election results until its in favor of them. It also reveals that YSK does not feel necessary to comply with the current non-democratic rules, let alone law itself. All these clearly display that Turkey is fastly leaving the rule of law and transforming into bossism.