Opposition official says election safety should be main focus for Turkey
Turkey’s opposition parties will focus on safety for the 2023 general and presidential elections and work to prevent fake voter registering, main opposition official Aytug Atici told news website Duvar on Sunday.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is planning to cross-check voter lists from the Supreme Election Council (YSK) by canvassing, said Atici, CHP’s chief of intraparty trainings. “Addresses need to be checked for voters registered in non-existent buildings, to see whether there are in fact as many voters as registered at the YSK.”

Other risks may come up after YSK issues a circular outlining the framework for the elections, Mehmet Gulerman, a volunteer at election monitoring NGO Ankara’s Votes, said.

In past elections, YSK has allowed votes without proper stamps be counted as valid and annulled the elections in certain provinces, Gulerman said, adding that it would not be possible to foresee all risks.

The recent amendment to Turkey’s election laws was done with political goals in mind, rather than being based on values of law, he said. “As such, it is not difficult to guess that the YSK would issue a circular towards the same direction.”

The amendment removes the requirement to have senior judges chair election councils. Under the new law, chairs and members of provincial election councils will be chosen randomly from among first-class judges.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently promoted lawyers who were working for the party’s district branches to judges and prosecutors, Gulerman, who is also a lawyer, said. “A significant portion of them are now first-class judges. That is why the AKP wants to put first-class judges at the head election councils.”

 “As such, objections after elections could be rejected for the most part,” the lawyer continued. “It is important to object to any irregularities as they happen, before voting is over.”

The law now allows for parties to propose non-members as ballot officials at every location.

 “So now, in case we cannot find enough CHP members to man every ballot council, we can call in people from other parties to act in our name. It will be important for opposition parties to work together to defend the ballots,” Atici said.

In past elections, members of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who were on duty as election officials were detained shortly before voting began, making it impossible for the party to monitor the process in eastern and southeastern provinces where almost all votes are divided between the AKP and HDP.

Civilian initiatives including Ankara’s Votes, Oy ve Otesi (“Votes and Beyond”) and others have played significant role in public monitoring of elections since the local elections in 2014, on top of election monitors from the European Union.

The AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been losing votes over issues such as the ailing economy, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government’s refugee policies. The opposition is coming together in two alliances to try and end the AKP’s two-decade rule as the sole party in government.

The YSK has announced the third public tender to purchase envelopes and voting ballots, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sunday. On March 23, the council had announced two tenders for voting booths, stamps and ink pads, as well as wax and string for the seals. All materials need to be delivered within six months from April 15.

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