Turkey’s constitutional referendum ‘sham election’

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Turkey’s constitutional referendum ‘sham election’

2018-05-24 09:07 BST
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Article in Foreign Policy mentions Turkey’s constitutional referendum in 2017 among ‘sham elections’

Turkey's constitutional referendum was held in April 2017

On 23 May 2018, an article was published in Foreign Policy in which it was claimed that Turkey’s April 2017 was a ‘sham election’.

“While many Western observers were busy condemning sham elections in Turkey and Russia, Trump picked up the phone and congratulated both leaders,” the article read, apparently referring to the constitutional referendum of Turkey held on 16 April 2017.

As a matter of fact, no independent monitoring institution or public figure was known to have called the April referendum of Turkey ‘sham’, considering the results to be invalid. Although the referendum campaign process in general was criticized from some aspects – such as the inadequate media coverage of the No campaign or the alleged curtailment of freedoms under the state of emergency – these criticisms targeted the run-up to the election, not the voting process.

The only criticism directed at the voting process was the acceptance of the ballots unstamped by ballot box committees.

However, Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) Chair Sadi Guven underscored that accepting unstamped ballots was not a novel practice and had happened in the past as well. Moreover, the stamp to be inscribed on ballots by ballot box committees is not the only measure to ensure the security of the elections. A valid ballot must also bear the watermark and emblem of the High Electoral Board as well as the stamp of the district electoral council. Ballots which fail to fulfill even one of these conditions or other criteria are not accepted.

The validity of the results were attested by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) in its report on the referendum, which also voiced the aforementioned criticisms. “While a few procedural errors were noted, in the limited instances of observation by the OSCE/ODIHR LROM, the counting and tabulation processes were generally assessed positively,” the report read. But nowhere in the report was the election declared as sham or were the results of the election declared to be invalid.

Moreover, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Group Deputy Chairman Ozgur Ozel strictly emphasized in a TV show before the referendum that it is impossible to rig the elections thanks to the electoral information system named SECSIS, calling the rumors that votes will be stolen ‘provocations’.

“As the CHP, we are organized at every ballot box. There is no possibility of theft [vote rigging] in the system called SECSIS. We set up the same system. It compares [our numbers with the official numbers] and gives the alarm in case of the tiniest incompatibility. We have the power, determination and the organization that won’t let even a single vote be stolen. It is not only us who do this. Many other parties do it as well. Citizens will cast their votes and we’ll be responsible for protection,” he said.

Furthermore, the organization of the elections in Turkey in general were praised by OSCE/ODIHR. In its report on the latest general elections in Turkey on 1 November 2015, the OSCE/ODIHR said: “Election day was generally peaceful and . . . the voting process was overall organized in an efficient manner. BBC [ballot box committee] members were well prepared and followed voting procedures overall.”

Likewise, in its report on the presidential election in 2014, the OSCE/ODIHR stated that “election day was generally organized in a professional and efficient manner, and BBC [ballot box committee] members overall were well prepared and followed voting procedures.”