An alleged voter manipulation tactic has surfaced in the Kurdish-majority province of Mardin (Mêrdîn) in southeast Turkey, where 600 soldiers and police officers – just the number needed to tilt the electoral balance in favour of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – were reportedly registered at a ‘guesthouse’ ahead of the March 2024 municipal elections.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) District Co-chair Selahattin Önder stated that he had personally seen the record of the registration in question at the district registry office, and likened the tactic to those in the 2019 elections, where about 1,500 votes were purportedly brought in from outside using the same tactics.
The allegations follow similar reported incidents in Mersin and Ağrı (Agirî). In Mersin, local officials were accused of altering their registered home addresses, whereas civil servants living in outlying parts of Ağrı province claimed they had been put under pressure to change their registered addresses to Ağrı city centre, allegedly to prevent the HDP from winning in the region.
In the Mardin incident, the sudden registration of a significant number of security personnel at an address marked as a ‘guesthouse’ has been flagged up as a possible attempt to sway the electoral outcome in favour of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The registration at an address which according to Turkish law is unfit for permanent residency hints at an attempt to alter the voting dynamics in the region. “They brought about 1,500 votes from outside in this way in 2019. Now they want to do the same again. I personally witnessed the 600 people who ‘moved home’ today,” Önder stated.
Journalist Nevşin Mengü also recently uncovered the alleged coercion of officials in a village in Ağrı province near the Turkish-Iranian border to change their registered addresses to the city centre, in another attempt to hinder the electoral success of the HDP. “The district governor ordered all 500 staff to change their [registered] addresses, saying that those who did not would face consequences,” a civil servant revealed to Mengü.
These unfolding allegations of voter manipulation across different regions in Turkey, appearing to target mainly areas with significant Kurdish populations, reveal a pattern which is reason for concern as the municipal elections approach.