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Former party heavyweight hints AKP gov’t committed fraud in past elections

Leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Ali Babacan AFP

Opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader and former Turkish deputy prime minister Ali Babacan has hinted that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engaged in fraud in past elections, local media reported on Monday.

Babacan resigned from the AKP, of which he was a founding member, in 2019, citing concerns and disagreements over its direction. After months of rumors circulating about his plans to establish a new party to challenge the AKP’s rule, he unveiled DEVA in March 2020.

Babacan on Monday talked about how to hold fair elections during a program on FOX TV, saying he had witnessed election fraud in Turkey in the past.

“It’s necessary to win the election by a wide margin so that no one can cheat. Ballot boxes must be protected. The ballots of non-voters were stamped and used for [the benefit of] a single party. We have seen this before,” he claimed.

His remarks were considered by many to be a confession that the ruling AKP had resorted to fraud in previous elections.

“Babacan let slip during a program on FOX that the AKP had rigged elections,” journalist Said Sefa said in a tweet on Monday.

Prominent journalist and a lawmaker from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) Ahmet Şık also on Monday asked Babacan on Twitter which elections he had referred to as rigged.

“By ‘a single party,’ were you referring to the AKP, or [its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party] MHP? Were you part of the AKP at the time of the rigged elections? Why didn’t you object [to election fraud]? Why haven’t you revealed this until now?” Şık tweeted.

Turkey’s ruling AKP, which has been in power since 2002, has been accused of rigging the elections since a narrowly backed referendum in 2017 on constitutional amendments that would allow the country to switch from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency.

Dismissing ministers and parliament, issuing decrees, declaring states of emergency and appointing figures to key positions, including the judiciary, are some of the powers the new system gave President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It also allowed the president to retain membership in a political party, which was previously prohibited under the constitution as the president was expected to act with impartiality.

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