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Alleged irregularities reported across Turkey in pivotal election

Allegations of electoral irregularities were reported across Turkey during Sunday’s momentous election that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 21-year grip on power or put the mostly Muslim nation on a more secular path.

The presidential and parliamentary elections have turned into a referendum on Turkey’s longest-serving leader and his Islamic-rooted party. It is also the toughest of more than a dozen that Erdoğan has participated in — one that polls suggest he might lose.

Journalists, opposition politicians and social media users on Sunday claimed widespread electoral irregularities in favor of Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) across the country.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul branch chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu announced that a ballot box committee head in İstanbul was detained for attempting to vote for himself on the ballot he gave to a voter.

Kaftancıoğlu also said that only one person had attempted to cast a duplicate vote in İstanbul so far and that he was caught.

Journalist Sevilay Yılman said that in a school in Malatya province the ink from the stamp that should be pressed on the back of the ballot paper was transferred to the back of the paper exactly where Erdoğan’s name appeared.

“The voters notice this and alert the ballot committee, to which they respond: ‘There’s nothing we can do! The ballots came like this. If you vote for a candidate [other than Erdoğan], your vote will be invalid’,” Yılman added.

The journalist later said, citing CHP Malatya deputy Veli Ağbaba, that lawyer Feridun Önal, head of the main opposition’s Nation Alliance’s legal committee, objected and documented the issue in the minutes.

After reviewing the complaints, Turkey’s Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) sent a message to all ballot box committee chairmen stating that the ballot papers will be considered valid, according to a report by the Demirören news agency (DHA).

Lawyer Cemil Çiçek also tweeted that a criminal complaint was filed against an individual who was seen in a video circulating on social media casting votes for Erdoğan in the presidential race by stamping ballot papers in Şanlıurfa province.

According to a report by Sol Haber news website, a police officer identified only by the initials G.Ş. attempted to cast another vote at a different polling station than his in the Pamukkale district of Denizli. Observers from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) reportedly noticed the situation and prevented G.Ş. from casting a second vote.

A video shared on Twitter also showed Cengiz Yıldırım, chairman of the ballot box committee at a school in Şanlıurfa province, showing illiterate women where to vote on the ballot papers and instructing them to vote for the ruling AKP.

The Cumhuriyet daily on Sunday reported that an observer from the opposition Green Left Party (YSP) in Mardin who tried to prevent AKP parliamentary candidate Faruk Kılıç and his relatives from voting as a group was injured in an attack by them and taken to a hospital for treatment.

Election security has been a significant concern in Turkey, with various issues arising during past elections. One of the main concerns involves the potential political interference in the operations of the YSK and the state-run Anadolu news agency, which could affect the fairness and transparency of elections as well as the announcement of results.

There also have been allegations of harassment, intimidation and even violence against opposition candidates and supporters and concerns about the accuracy and transparency of voter registration and ballot-counting processes. Some reports have highlighted irregularities in voter registration lists, such as the inclusion of deceased individuals or ineligible voters. Some critics have also raised concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the use of electronic voting systems and the potential for tampering or manipulation of electronic votes.

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