On 14 May, Turkey’s all-important parliamentary and presidential elections took place. The eyes of the world were focused on the presidential vote: would fascistic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan keep hold of his 20 years in power? Or would his opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, finally overthrow him? It was, of course, never going to be a simple fight. Neither of the candidates reached the required 50% of votes to win, so the presidential race will go to a run-off on 28 May.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary election received less coverage. The truly democratic, pro-Kurdish HDP ran under the new banner Yeşil Sol Parti (Green Left Party) because it was expecting to be criminalised by the Turkish state. It won 61 seats, but claims that it should have won more.
As always during election time in Turkey, the HDP/Yeşil Sol called for international observers to come and monitor the elections. Turkey always intimidates Kurdish voters with armoured vehicles, as well as armed police at polling stations. 2023 was, of course, no exception. Election monitors were also intimidated, and a Spanish delegation was rounded up, jailed and then deported.
The UK delegation was, for the most part, able to do its job, travelling around the Kurdish region to monitor the polling stations. However, it reported that it saw “several instances of electoral interference”:
This included, for instance, military officers intimidating local voters in Şemdinli and hundreds of military personnel arriving to vote in Büyükçiftlik, Yüksekova that were unknown to local people. The delegation witnessed at least 30 of the soldiers attending a special booth that only military personnel were voting at.
Fraud during Turkey’s elections
The delegation argued that the election results were neither free nor fair. It said:
We have been shown proof that election fraud by the Turkish authorities took place when the election results approved by local election committees were typed into the national database. The local campaigners gave us direct evidence of two cases – approved local election committee documents and the published final result.
The documents were shown to the Canary. The delegation explained how the fascist party, the MHP, had stolen the exact number of votes that Yeşil Sol had gained, and reported them as its own figure in two different regions:
The local election committee document in district 1234, Bismil, Diyarbakır, shows 233 votes for the Green Left Party (YSP), while the final result reported shows 0 for YSP and 233 for the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Similarly, in district 1912 in Hakkari, the local election committee document shows 228 for YSP and 0 for MHP, while the officially published result shows 228 for MHP and 0 for YSP.
This was backed up by HDP Europe, which tweeted:
After much dispute, the delegation told the Canary that the two instances of stolen votes mentioned above had been “given back” to the YSP. These cases of attempted fraud were intercepted. But observers still on the ground stated that there are discrepancies with thousands of ballot boxes. The delegation said:
The YSP is trying to challenge these cases with the Supreme Electoral Board, and a representative of the party in Diyarbakır told the UK group that they are aware of hundreds of instances of this happening, and the number is continuously changing due to administrative complications at each point in the process.
The official deadline for complaints was…Tuesday 16 May 3pm, but the state has been unresponsive to most of the cases raised by the YSP. This, in combination with the tactics of the AKP members of local election committees asking for numerous recounts, means that these suspicious results were sent late to the national election system so that there has been limited time to challenge any fraud.
The delegation talked about the massive advantage that Erdoğan, his AKP party, and fascistic People’s Alliance bloc, had in the run-up to the election. An obvious example of this is the control of the nation’s media. Turkey is known as the world’s biggest jail for journalists. Anyone who criticises the president or his policies are likely to find themselves on trial and locked up. Indeed, in the run up to the election, Turkish police raided and detained at least 128 people in 21 cities.
Of those detained ten were journalists, including Kurdish female journalist Beritan Canözer, who has previously given an interview to the Canary and who is repeatedly targeted by the state. On 16 May, ten journalists went to trial in Ankara. The HDP said:
Erdogan is trying to silence the journalists he cannot control (especially Kurdish journalists) by arresting them on arbitrary grounds.
The delegation said:
Widespread repression and harassment by police of the Kurdish opposition party was witnessed over several weeks of their delegation like arrests of opposition politicians and party members, journalists and lawyers, and police suppression of rallies. This is, in fact, a long-term systematic interference of the electoral freedom. The repression of the Turkish state is ever-present. Several YSP officials told us that if Erdogan wins, they expect to be in prison.
Meanwhile, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) reported that
“the incumbent president and the ruling parties enjoyed an unjustified advantage, including through biased media coverage. The continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression hindered the participation of some opposition politicians and parties, civil society and independent media in the election process… there was a lack of transparency and communication, as well as concerns over its independence.”
It is clear that Erdoğan and his allies will do all that they can to hold onto power. The 28 May presidential run-off will be no different, and we can expect more intimidation and fear on the streets to come.
Featured image via UK election delegation