Numerous election irregularities and violations were reported in polling stations across the Kurdish-majority provinces of Turkey on Sunday.
The Kurdish-majority regions witnessed significant support for opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the presidential run-off vote, just as in the first round of elections. However, reports have emerged of supporters and representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their extremist Islamist partner HÜDA-PAR interfering with voters and observers, particularly in areas where Kılıçdaroğlu had garnered significant support in the first round. The presence of an increased military mobilisation in the region further heightened tensions and uncertainty surrounding the elections.
Diyarbakir’s crisis desk, one of a number established by bar associations in various provinces to record and follow up reported election irregularities, was inundated with over 500 calls, of which nearly 300 reported violations. The citizens of the city closely monitored the situation at the polling stations and demonstrated remarkable vigilance.
Şanlıurfa was one of the cities with the highest number of violations, including attacks on polling officials, lawyers and MPs, and instances of block votes and other irregular voting.
Unidentified men attacked newly elected Green Left Party MP Ferit Şenyaşar as well as HDP and DBP branch officials and lawyers from the city’s bar association in Şanlıurfa (Riha) during the presidential run-off.
Şenyaşar entered politics after five years of fighting for justice for three of his family members who were gunned down by relatives of an AKP MP in their home town.Ali Şeker, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP visiting from Istanbul, observed instances of block voting during his visit to the polling stations in a rural neighbourhood. Men were also attempting to vote on behalf of women. Şeker stated that this practice was illegal and that women should also participate in the voting process, upon which Şeker and the CHP observer were attacked by a group of 15-20 people. Şeker was struck on the nose and had to be hospitalised.
In another rural neighbourhood, CHP polling station staff members were assaulted for opposing block voting. CHP lawyer Ronahi Paydaş shared an account of the incident on her social media account saying, “We ourselves and our polling stations were attacked, threatened, and insulted when we tried to prevent block voting here. Since we are not currently safe, we have left the village report the crime and lodge a complaint.” Paydaş further added, “The person who threatened to ‘take our heads’ if he saw us in other villages should be aware that as members of the CHP Law Commission, we will not abandon our duty. We will continue to protect the will of the voters and we will remain at our stations!”
Mahmut Tanal, CHP MP for Şanlıurfa, who visited the same neighbourhood later on, also reported being attacked.
In addition to the attacks, other election violations in the province, particularly in rural neighbourhoods, included block voting, the removal of non-AKP observers from polling stations and relatives casting votes on behalf of women who were not brought to vote.
Images depicting individuals voting “yes” for Tayyip Erdoğan multiple times circulated on social media, while some individuals shared videos with the message ‘We voted on behalf of our tribe’ attached.
In Cizre (Cizîr) district, police officers deployed tear gas bombs and rubber bullets against citizens who were waiting in the grounds of a school serving as a polling centre, forcibly dispersing and angering them. The school grounds were full of armoured vehicles while citizens waited to vote and participate in the election process.
In the district of Uludere (Qileban), it is reported that the AKP district chairman and certain officials contacted local headmen and village guards, instructing them to take photos of their ballots and provide them as proof of their votes. Meanwhile, in another district, a dispute arose between polling officials from the CHP and village guards who were casting their votes in full view of everyone.
In the village of Ulaş (Zewik) in Cizre, it is reported that Cihan Güven, a former AKP district chairman along with his nephews Ferzen and Mesut Güven and Mehmet Kaçar entered the voting booths together with the villagers, allegedly intimidating them and exerting pressure on them to vote for Erdoğan.
Allegations of block voting surfaced in the Derecik (Rûbarok) district. In response to these claims, Onur Düşünmez, a Green Left Party MP, along with lawyers from the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) and the Hakkari Bar Association, visited the village, where they were reportedly attacked by members of the AKP and village guards.
It was discovered that a voter had cast multiple votes in a ballot box at a school in Çavuşlar village, Bingöl province. When a CHP observer attempted to address the situation, they were told to leave the school by AKP supporters. Some time later it was revealed that the individual in question had voted on behalf of certain voters who were away in Europe.
The CHP observer reported the incident promptly to the gendarmerie. However, the officer they spoke to responded with, “This is the AKP’s domain, and I cannot intervene if there is an issue. Observe the election and then go.” Concerned for the observer’s safety, the gendarmes escorted the observer out of the village.
In Mardin, there was an incident where a group of individuals attempted to vote in full view of everyone. The electoral officers objected to this behaviour, upon which they were physically attacked by village guards and AKP supporters. The situation was eventually brought under control by the intervention of soldiers.
Meanwhile, lawyers were denied entry while the AKP mayor and district chairman allegedly visited the polling stations and intimidated the polling officials.
At other ballot boxes within the same school, there were reports of organised block voting. When a CHP polling station attendant raised objections, the individual was subjected to threats by the head of the polling station.
In several districts, there were reports of police officers visiting polling stations and specifically requesting AKP observers. It was observed that the police brought external observers to polling stations where there were no AKP observers present, and armoured vehicles were stationed inside the grounds of schools being used as polling stations.
Observers from the CHP and the Green Left Party were subjected to threats and their entry into the premises of polling stations hindered. In the 14 May elections, 63 out of 83 votes had been cast in favour of the Green Left Party in Siirt, and here soldiers and village guards tried to compel voters to cast their votes in full view. Similarly, in another village, there was an attempt at block voting. However, strong reactions from observers present prevented these practices.