Turkey did not fulfil the fundamental principles of democratic electoral regulation, said the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in its observation report released on Saturday.
The final report, based on the observations of a PACE parliamentary delegation comprising 40 individuals, highlights several concerns regarding the election process.
One of the main points raised in the report is the perceived advantage enjoyed by the incumbent president, the ministers and the ruling party, from biased media coverage and unjustified use of official duties for campaigning. The report states that the president’s involvement in numerous infrastructure projects during the campaign, along with the announcement of social benefit programs, tilted the playing field and blurred the line between party and state.
Furthermore, the report notes that opposition parties and politicians faced systematic targeting by the government, which hindered their ability to campaign and participate in political activities. Restrictions on freedom of assembly, organisation, and expression affected not only political officials and opposition parties but also civil society and independent media.
The PACE also refers to the court case demanding closure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), stressing that it undermines the independence of the judiciary, which impacts the electoral process.
The report also raises concerns about the lack of transparency and communication deficiencies within the High Election Board, which serves as both an administrative and legal body for elections. The closed nature of the Board’s meetings, the failure to announce decisions in a timely manner, and the absence of preliminary election results from polling stations contributed to uncertainties surrounding the election results. The legal framework related to elections is criticised for containing “substantial shortcomings”, raising doubts about key stages of the electoral process.
The PACE’s report also highlights biased reporting by the Turkish media during the election campaign. While it is mandatory that public broadcasting institutions reflect the campaign impartially, the report points out that state-run Radio and Television of Turkey (TRT) showed support for the ruling People’s Alliance and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Opposition-affiliated TV channels were also accused of biased reporting, predominantly publishing negative news about President Erdoğan and promoting the opposition bloc, Nation Alliance.
The report draws attention to the low representation of women in politics, with only a quarter of parliamentary candidates being women and no female candidate participating in the presidential election. This disparity raises concerns despite constitutional guarantees of gender equality.
The PACE report, prepared by German Social Democratic parliamentarian Frank Schwabe, who chaired the election observation mission, will be discussed at the PACE general session in Strasbourg on Monday.