The integrity of Turkey’s 14 May elections remains a subject of concern as the country prepares for the run-off presidential election. Observers and experts are calling for increased scrutiny and safeguards to maintain the transparency and fairness of the democratic process.
Nearly six million unexplained votes
The unexplained, abnormal number of votes cast in polling stations in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority eastern and southeastern provinces was a reflection of the presence of law-enforcement officers at polling stations, said Birol Aydemir, chief adviser to the leader of the centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP).
Sharing his extensive study of the 14 May elections, Aydemir argued that results in 22,000 ballot boxes covering nearly six million votes were suspicious, and said that three per cent of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s votes remained unexplained.
Aydemir’s analysis further indicated that the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a part of the ruling bloc, received a vote share ten points higher than the provincial average in 10,785 ballot boxes. These questionable votes allegedly contributed to a 0.66 per cent increase in the MHP’s national vote.
According to Aydemir, votes meant for the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party were redirected to the MHP. Additionally, in 1,644 ballot boxes, votes initially intended for the opposition’s joint presidential candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, were allegedly transferred to Muharrem İnce, who had declared his de facto withdrawal prior to the election.
To address these concerns, Aydemir urged the opposition to gain control over the 22,000 polling stations where suspicious cases were observed and recommended the assignment of lawyers to ensure security at these locations. He emphasised that winning the upcoming run-off presidential election on 28 May would require controlling the polls and stationing observers at polling stations.
Run-off does not signify democracy: Michael Rubin
In a recent article, Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), also expressed doubts regarding Erdoğan’s votes in the Turkish elections. Rubin disagreed with the interpretation that Erdoğan’s failure to win in the first round could be viewed as a silver lining, citing Iran as an example where run-off votes are common. He argued that the absence of a first-round win does not signify democratic progress.
Rubin highlighted that this year’s registered voters reached 64 million, compared to 59 million in 2018. Considering the number of deceased individuals since 2018 and the addition of six million new first-time voters, there appeared to be three million more voters than expected. Rubin contended that many of these additional voters were Syrians who acquired Turkish citizenship but did not speak Turkish, which resulted in their exclusion from pre-election polls which mostly showed Kılıçdaroğlu ahead.
However, he adds that the Syrians to whom the Turkish government granted citizenship and therefore voting rights did not represent the entire Syrian population in Turkey: “no Kurds, Yezidis, or Alawites, for example, nor those more inclined to laicism. Rather, the sole beneficiaries of Erdoğan’s passport largesse have been Sunni Syrian Islamists whose views of religious and politics mirror Erdoğan’s own.”
Statistical analysis indicates two million abnormal votes
Polimetre, a research company, also conducted a statistical analysis of the recent elections and concluded that over 1.65 million “abnormal” votes were cast for Erdoğan in the parliamentary elections. Based on data from the last six elections, Polimetre’s research suggested that Erdoğan’s vote share exceeded expectations.
For instance, in Hatay, an earthquake-hit province, Polimetre’s statistical analysis indicated that Erdoğan should have received a maximum of 42.9 per cent of the vote. However, he obtained 48 per cent on 14 May.
In Adıyaman (Semsur), another quake-hit province, the election result that was predicted to have been below 59.6 per cent reached 66.2 per cent. In Ağrı (Agiri), the vote share expected to have have been below 18.4 per cent reached 31.7 per cent.
The study by Polimetre revealed that Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, had the highest number of abnormal votes, followed by the Kurdish-majority southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır (Amed), Şanlıurfa (Riha), and Van (Wan). The concentration of abnormal votes in Kurdish cities, where the Green Left Party holds influence, was notable. In contrast, 28 provinces exhibited no abnormal votes, aligning with the analysis data, and were predominantly located in Central Anatolia, a stronghold of the AKP.
Polimetre estimated that approximately two million votes cast for Erdoğan were anomalous. The company emphasised the necessity of taking measures to ensure ballot security, particularly in the 104 districts it labelled as “black holes.”