In the midst of claims of widespread irregularities in Turkey’s crucial presidential runoff on Sunday, observers and representatives of opposition parties were targets of multiple attacks that raise concerns about the fairness and integrity of the electoral process.
Turkey held parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. Although most public surveys showed opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu running neck-and-neck with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or defeating him in the first round, Kılıçdaroğlu finished the race behind Erdoğan.
According to the election results, while Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.8 percent of the nationwide vote, the support for Erdoğan stood at 49.5 percent, which requires a runoff since neither of the candidates was able to exceed the 50 percent threshold.
A former lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who was an observer in Turkey’s presidential runoff in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa was attacked for pointing out election irregularities, Turkish media reported on Sunday, citing a member of the party.
According to a series of tweets by CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Özgür Özel, former CHP lawmaker Ali Şeker, who was serving as an election observer in the village of Karaali, was beaten and had his phone broken because he pointed out election irregularities.
İstanbul Milletvekilimiz Ali Şeker, ilk turda bütün oyların kullanıldığı ve tek adaya çıktığı Şanlıurfa'nın Eyyübiye ilçesi Karaali köyünde görev yapıyor.
Kadınların yerine oy kullanılması gibi usulsüzlüklere itiraz ettiği için müşahitlerimizle darp edildi, telefonları kırıldı.
— Özgür Özel (@eczozgurozel) May 28, 2023
Özel also said there were not enough security forces present in the village and urged authorities to ensure the security of the election.
“We are not afraid, we are not discouraged, we will not give up! We are in the final hours; keep voting. I’m fine, don’t worry,” Şeker also tweeted.
Korkmuyoruz, yılmıyoruz, vazgeçmiyoruz!
Son saatler; oy kullanın.
Sandık görevlilerimiz ve müşahitlerimiz, son oy kullanılana ve yasalara uygun şekilde sayılıp tutanaklar imzalanana kadar sandıkları terk etmeyin.
Ben iyiyim, merak etmeyin. #Değiştireceğiz
— Ali ŞEKER (@draliseker) May 28, 2023
CHP’s Şanlıurfa deputy Mahmut Tanal said he was also attacked at the same polling place as Şeker, adding that they “won’t succumb to threats or attacks” and would protect the ballot boxes to prevent irregularities.
İstanbul Milletvekilimiz Ali Şeker, görevli olduğu Şanlıurfa Eyyübiye Karaali Mahallesi’nde usulsüz oy kullanımına karşı çıktığı için bir grubun saldırısına uğradı.
Şu an Karaali’de bekliyoruz.
Bana yönelik de saldırı oldu.
Burada devlet zafiyeti var!
— Av.Mahmut TANAL (@MTanal) May 28, 2023
Meanwhile, according to reports in the Turkish media, there have been a number of incidents of election fraud and irregularities occurring throughout the country, including accusations of attacks on ballot box observers and at least one report of a dead woman listed as eligible to vote.
Aynur Usta on Sunday told the Birgün daily that her mother, who died eight years ago, appeared on the voter list in İstanbul’s Bahçelievler suburb.
In a ballot box at a polling station in the Konak district of İzmir, ballot papers were found with a “yes” stamp marked for Erdoğan, the candidate of the Public Alliance, even though the envelopes given to voters were supposed to be empty. The incident was recorded in the minutes, and voting was halted at the ballot box.
During the voting at a high school in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district, a large group of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters reportedly stormed the school and attacked women who raised objections to certain election irregularities, with the police using pepper spray and batons to try to bring the situation under control as the tension escalated into a brawl.
Journalist Deniz Zeyrek, who shared footage of the incident, stated, citing a relative of his who had witnessed the altercation, that the attackers even assaulted the police.
Bir yakınım bu okulda oy kullandı. Bizzat tanık oldu bunlara.
Arayıp olanları bana da canlı canlı anlattı.
Görüntüde fark etmişsinizdir. Bir Kadına el kaldırmayı/yumruk göstermeyi normal gören bu genç arkadaşlar, daha sonra olaya müdahale eden devletin polisini dahi darp… https://t.co/ebA8F6e0we
— deniz zeyrek (@Deniz_Zeyrek) May 28, 2023
Opposition Green Left Party (YSP) Mardin deputy Kamuran Tanhan on Sunday told the ANKA news agency that AKP supporters attacked an election official in Midyat’s Çavuşlu village for objecting to people refusing to enter polling booths to vote in private.
“When the polling officials refused, they [AKP supporters] assaulted the chairperson of the Ballot Box Committee, tearing his shirt,” Tanhan added.
At a school in the Altındağ district of Ankara, three police officers cast their votes without presenting a document they were required to show in order to be eligible to vote. The incident was documented in a report including the ID numbers of the officers.
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 Supreme Election Board (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.