Numerous violations took place during Turkey’s recent presidential elections, reported the Human Rights Association (İHD). A new comprehensive study by the watchdog sheds light on incidents of voter suppression, obstruction of election observers and party representatives, and physical violence.
The report also raises concerns about a restrictive legal framework and harsh practices that hinder freedom of expression in Turkey. The İHD highlights the recent enactment known as the disinformation law as the latest example of legislation designed to curb freedom of expression.
The association called on all relevant authorities, particularly the country’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), to enable fair and unbiased elections in the country by ensuring the implementation of human rights.
The İHD conducted independent election monitoring throughout the election period with 450 active observers on the ground across the country. On election day, observers documented a series of violations at polling stations and during vote counting.
The report also highlighted how opposition parties were hindered by continuous pre-election detentions, arrests, and other tactics employed by Turkey’s ruling AKP. Targeted in particular were lawyers, observers, and other affiliates of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Green Left Party, and other participating left-wing or socialist groups. These tactics disrupted the opposition’s election campaign and subjected opposition party members and opposition supporters to criminalisation.
The İHD also raised concerns about the state-run TRT network, allegedly which was transformed into political propaganda tool during the election period. The report notes that TRT provided a consistent platform for representatives of the ruling party but routinely marginalised the voice of the opposition.
Erdogan’s controversial candidacy
The association raised a pressing question of whether Erdoğan’s presidential candidacy was constitutional. Turkey’s YSK election board accepted President Erdoǧan’s candidacy despite the fact that multiple objections were made over violations.
A president can serve a maximum of two consecutive terms under the Turkish constitution. Consequently, opposition parties raised objections to Erdoğan’s 2023 candidacy, as the incumbent President had already completed two terms in office. However, the Supreme Electoral Council dismissed these objections, citing that Erdoğan’s first term occurred prior to the implementation of the presidential system in Turkey.
Experts aligned with the opposition maintain that there is no substantive distinction between serving a term before or after the introduction of a presidential system and argue that the Constitution does not contain any provisions that specifically address such a distinction.