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Concerns of fairness grow as 2 OSCE election observers refused entry to Turkey

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The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has barred two European parliamentarians from entering Turkey to participate in an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission, prompting warnings about the transparency and fairness of presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The bans for the two parliamentarians from Germany and Sweden, European countries that are home to large ethnic Turkish communities, are fueling concerns among rights activists that voting irregularities will go unchecked.

According to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW), the Turkish government has blocked German parliamentarian Andrej Hunko from traveling to the country to serve as an election observer ahead of this Sunday’s polls

The Turkish government accuses Hunko, a member of the German Bundestag for the Left Party (Die Linke), of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hunko was set to travel to Turkey before being notified by the OSCE that he would be denied entry.

Hunko told Germany’s DPA news agency that the OSCE informed him of the Turkish ambassador’s announcement shortly before his flight from Vienna to Ankara was to depart. Hunko, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the Left Party, participated as an OSCE election observer in the April 2017 constitutional referendum in Turkey. The German Foreign Ministry said it was seeking to have the ban lifted.

Turkey’s opposition claimed irregularities in the referendum, which was narrowly approved and changed Turkey from a parliamentary into a presidential system. Hunko criticized the “undemocratic and unfair conditions” under which that vote was held and suggested possible fraud was responsible for the narrow passage of the referendum.

In an interview with German state broadcaster ARD in January, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu singled out the Left Party and Hunko for being “fans of the terrorist organization PKK.” He also pointed to pictures of Hunko holding up a PKK flag at Kurdish demonstrations in Germany.

Hunko has supported delisting the PKK as a terrorist organization and criticized a German ban against PKK symbols. However, the German deputy has rejected suggestions that he is close to the PKK.

“It is certainly absurd that the Turkish government acts as though I travel as an OSCE election observer in Turkey and make propaganda for the PKK,” Hunko said on Thursday. “That shows the Turkish government is nervous about the vote.”

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry also announced that Jabar Amin, a Swedish lawmaker of Turkish origin from the Greens Party, had also been refused entry. According to The Associated Press, Amin had his passport seized upon arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport and was prevented from leaving the airport.

“We have just recently been informed that Jabar Amin has been denied entry into Turkey. We have raised the issue with Turkish representatives and demand an explanation,” said Gunnar Vrang, a spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry.

Amin later announced that he had returned to Sweden.

The OSCE said it “deplores” the denial by Turkey of two members of its observer mission for Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections “based on their publicly expressed political opinion.”

The group said Thursday from its Copenhagen office that Turkey “should not — directly or indirectly — influence the composition of the … mission.”

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF] with Turkish Minute)

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