With local elections scheduled for 31 March, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faces accusations of attempting to tilt the results in its favour by relocating military, police, village guard and civil servant voter registrations to several competitive provinces and districts.
According to emerging reports, one of the most affected regions is the predominantly Kurdish southeastern province of Şırnak (Şirnex), with a significant number of newly registered military and police personnel in the districts of Beytüşşebap (Elkê) and Uludere (Qileban). People’s Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) provincial co-chairs argue that the influx indicates a deliberate attempt to influence the local elections.
Since the presidential elections in May 2023, the number of registered voters in Şırnak city centre has increased by 15 percent, while Uludere has seen an increase of 16 percent, and Beytüşşebap reported an increase of six percent. The number of new voters in Şırnak city centre alone reached 8,343 in the last five months.
Abdullah Güngen, the co-chair of the DEM Party in Kurdish-majority Şırnak, referring to the 2019 local elections, accused the government of “usurping the will of the people”, and stressed that the country now faces a similar situation in the lead up to the local elections in March. “They want to burden the people’s will with these methods,” Günen said, urging residents to respond to the situation. “Transporting voters won’t save the AKP,” he added.
Güngen further claimed that the government views Şırnak, as an “assimilation laboratory”, exploiting a region at the heart of the Kurdish political movement. “That’s why [Şırnak is] crucial for the state. They want to eliminate the [Kurdish] struggle. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is ideologically interfering in the will of the people of Şırnak. This is related to the policy of assimilation and cultural genocide,” he said.
Suspicions have also been raised in the southern province of Mersin. Ali Bozan, a representative from the DEM Party, revealed that the AKP had moved 119 voter registrations under a single residence. Accusing the AKP of resorting to voter theft, Bozan stated, “The AKP has looted everything in this country so far. Now they’ve started stealing voters.”
Bozan shared a video on social media showing the alleged transfer of voter registration in Mersin with the message: “We are exposing the AKP’s voter theft by going door to door in Çilek Mahallesi, Mersin. The AKP has realised that it can’t win the election at the ballot box and has moved 119 voter registrations to a single house. We won’t hesitate to embarrass you and the bureaucrats who support you.”
In the southeastern Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakır (Amed), it was also revealed that 1,150 “fictitious voters” have been registered across just three neighbourhoods prior to the elections. The DEM Party plans to file a complaint about the irregularities.
This latest controversy echoes similar allegations from the 2019 local elections, where the deployment of military personnel in Kurdish-majority areas was highlighted as an attempt to influence the election results.