Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had an unfair advantage in the second round of Turkey’s presidential elections, due to biased media coverage and the lack of a level playing field, just as he did in the first round, international observers said in a statement on Monday.
A delegation of 232 observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from 31 countries closely monitored Turkey’s presidential election’s second round.
In their preliminary report, the delegation referred to ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and the wave of pre-election operations launched against pro-Kurdish circles and argued that unequal conditions unfairly benefited Erdoğan.
The report showed Turkey’s presidential election run-off marred by ongoing trials and arrests that target journalists and online bloggers, further eroding the already heavily restricted freedom of expression in the country. In addition, observers pointed out that several broadcasters failed to fulfil their legal obligation to offer impartial coverage of the campaign and provide equal opportunities to both presidential candidates. This partiality was particularly evident in the public broadcaster’s significant favouritism toward Erdoğan, and a similar bias was observed in numerous private media outlets.
Inflammatory and discriminatory language was evident across the election campaigns, the delegation noted, stressing that “continued intimidation and harassment of supporters of some opposition parties undermined the process”.
“This second round also [as the first round] took place in an environment that in many ways does not provide the conditions for holding democratic elections,” said Frank Schwabe, head of the PACE delegation.
Schwabe further called for the implementation of judgements handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the cases of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and Turkish businessman and rights defender Osman Kavala.