Allegations of election fraud are being raised following Turkey’s recent presidential and parliamentary elections, with concerns about irregularities, manipulated media coverage and manipulation of voting results coming to the fore, as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its electoral alliance secured a majority in the parliamentary elections and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan missed a first-round victory by a slim margin, setting the stage for a runoff on May 28 and intensifying the political tension.
The elections, held on May 14, saw Erdoğan vying for re-election against his main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP). With neither candidate securing the required 50 percent plus one additional vote in the first round, election officials have announced a runoff to be held on May 28. Unofficial results put Erdoğan at 49.51 percent of the vote, narrowly missing the mark, while Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.88 percent. Meanwhile, the AKP and its electoral alliance secured a majority in the parliamentary elections, gaining 321 out of the total 600 seats. The composition of parliament could change when the official results are announced since some seats are reportedly changing hands in the opposition’s favor due to recounts after objections.
However, allegations of election fraud have marred the electoral process.
On Tuesday, social media was abuzz with allegations of underreported tallies and falsely registered results at the Supreme Election Board (YSK) database.
Yıllardır hileyle nasıl seçim kazanıp ülkeye el koyduklarına dair tahminlerimi ve alınması gereken önlemleri sizlerle paylaşmak istiyorum.
— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) May 16, 2023
Among the voices raising concerns is Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Demirtaş claimed that elections had been systematically rigged for years, highlighting issues with wet-signed counting reports, the composition of ballot box committees, manipulation of counting reports and the alleged favoritism of the state-run Anadolu news agency towards President Erdoğan. He also implicated Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in alleged election fraud activities, suggesting the existence of a central digital base orchestrating such activities. Demirtaş underscored the importance of transparency, active participation and robust anti-fraud measures in upholding the integrity of elections.
Turkey’s official election results are in flux as I write. The opposition should immediately create an online and public data base with links to each of the 192K polling station’s reported results and the HEC data base. The earthquake zone results are especially suspect.
— Timur Kuran (@timurkuran) May 16, 2023
The allegations of election fraud intensified as opposition figures and social media users claimed that many ballot box results were incorrectly recorded in the database of the YSK. After the YSK shared its database with political parties, the CHP publicly compared the data with wet-signed ballot box result reports and discovered numerous irregularities that favored the ruling parties. Voters also reported discrepancies between the “official” ballot box results on the CHP’s website and the wet-signed reports.
My Twitter feed is now exploding with evidence of massive fraud in processing Turkey’s election results. The High Election Council oversaw the fraud. It should resign for the good of the country. An impartial body should reprocess all votes for parliament and president. https://t.co/UIdarXnswP
— Timur Kuran (@timurkuran) May 16, 2023
The Green Left Party (YSP) alleged that its votes were shifted to the ruling coalition’s far-right partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), at some polling stations. The HDP decided to run under the banner of the YSP in the parliamentary elections in a bid to circumvent the risks that could emerge from its possible closure ahead of the elections. The HDP is facing a closure case on terrorism charges that was filed in March 2021.
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) May 16, 2023
Opposition figures, including CHP Ankara Provincial Chair Ali Hikmet Akıllı and Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) representatives, lodged objections to the irregularities detected in the YSK system. The YSP’s election board representative, Mehmet Rüştü Tiryaki, stated that over 1,000 incorrectly entered ballot box reports were challenged and that most objections were resolved. However, concerns about systematic fraud remained, with opposition leaders demanding transparency and accurate representation of the election results.
All losers complain about election fraud, but what I am seeing today on Twitter (& hearing from friends who are checking the official database against handwritten tallies) suggests that what went on cannot be explained just as random errors (as they always favour the regime) 1
— Ayşe Zarakol (@AyseZarakol) May 16, 2023
According to many critics, the alleged irregularities were systematic and large enough to influence the election in favor of the AKP and Erdoğan. Some suspect a multistage plan in which the AKP manipulated the election by falsely inflating MHP votes in the YSK database and the reason the AKP allied with smaller extremist parties such as the New Welfare Party (YRP) or the radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) was so the government could inflate Erdoğan’s vote to 49 percent without having to raise the AKP vote to a suspicious level. According to these views, so-called pro-opposition media outlets also played a part in the AKP’s multistage plan.
We are focusing on Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu.. Understandably.. But it is also an election for Parliament.. AKP is seeing a historic drop in votes.. CHP at similar level… Interesting how both parties differ from their leaders' votes pic.twitter.com/7asquxyj1F
— Ziya Meral (@Ziya_Meral) May 14, 2023
On Monday opposition figures and media outlets accused pro-opposition media outlets, such as Halk TV, KRT TV and Sözcü TV, along with the ANKA news agency, of bias in favor of the ruling AKP. Critics accused these media organizations of amplifying negative perceptions of the opposition’s voter base by relying on data from the state-run Anadolu news agency, which was viewed as part of the AKP government’s strategy. These outlets were also accused of prematurely reporting on the performance of opposition parties and candidates, which allegedly undermined the motivation of opposition poll observers.
Cevheri Güven, an investigative journalist living in exile whose videos on YouTube in which he talks about the Turkish government’s corruption and shadowy relations attract hundreds of thousands of viewers, raised doubts about the integrity of the election process in a video posted on his YouTube channel on Tuesday. Güven questioned the reliability of the election data system, highlighted the influence of CHP vice chair and MP Tuncay Özkan within the CHP, alleging that he’s a media mogul in charge of Halk TV, KRT and ANKA and criticizing the manipulation of data by these outlets.
On Turkey’s election night, the opposition’s own vote counting system failed or was sabotaged. We still don’t know whether the cause was gross negligence, or Team Erdoğan breaking into the operation, or sabotage by insiders. Whatever the case, a new team is in place for May 28.
— Timur Kuran (@timurkuran) May 17, 2023
Güven claims that the election was also manipulated by the Interior Ministry’s access to YSK data. He suspects that the ministry had permission to alter YSK’s data using sophisticated software, which was key to the alleged manipulations. Güven criticized the lack of a parallel organization to record all the signed reports documenting the counts in order to challenge or verify the YSK results.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observation mission’s preliminary findings echoed these concerns. The mission noted issues with biased media coverage, restrictions on fundamental freedoms and limitations on voting rights. It also identified a lack of transparency, inadequate mechanisms for addressing grievances and procedural errors during voting and counting. The OSCE mission stressed the need for non-partisan observation and comprehensive regulations for resolving electoral disputes.
Lots of reports throughout Turkey of votes being falsely entered with underreported tallies for opposition parties, who are officially objecting the results to the Supreme Election Board. https://t.co/ctIEqgWFY0
— Paul Benjamin Osterlund (@Paul_Osterlund) May 16, 2023