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Home arrow newsitems arrow Turkish Elections' Legitimacy Challenged by CoE+OSCE: Bad Changes impact on Vote Results

Turkish Elections' Legitimacy Challenged by CoE+OSCE: Bad Changes impact on Vote Results

Written by ACM
Monday, 17 December 2018
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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/- The critical Findings of a joint Report adopted both by Pan-European CoE and Trans-Atlantic OSCE this Week-End, Challenge the Legitimacy of Turkish Elections, including those of 2018, on which are based the current Government and President of Turkey, also because of Last-Minute Changes impacting the Vote's Results.


Decided by slightly more than only 2% or 3%, those Presidential and Parliamentary Elections had been already accused by the EU, OSCE a.o. for UnEqual Conditions, exceptional Restrictions to Freedom of Expression and/or Assembly, under State of Emergency, etc., to which, NGOs and Medias had also added alleged "Stuffing" of Ballots, particularly in certain key areas, etc.


Now, the 61 Member States' strong (including EU Countries, Russia, Brazil, Magbreb [Algeria/Tunisia/Morocco], Korea, Brazil, Mexico and USA, i.e. 1,6 Billions of People) CoE's body of Top Legal Experts on Democracy and Human Rights through Law, known as "Venice Commission", together with OSCE's, 57 Member States strong, specialized ODHIR Office, focused mainly on "Last-Minute" Changes in Turkey's Electoral Laws, suddenly introduced by Ankara's Government on March and April 2018, i.e. shortly before the "Early" Presidential and Parliamentary Elections of June 2018.


- Even if "Venice Commission"'s Reports usually concern Future moves by the concerned States, nevertheless, in the Exceptional Circumstances of this Turkish case, they inevitably concern also that Recent Event, CoE body's Head on Elections, Pierre Garrone from Switzerland, confirmed, speaking to "Eurofora".


Significantly, the move responded to an Official Demand made by CoE Assembly's (PACE) "Monitoring" Committee, on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by CoE's Member States, initiated by PACE's Co-Rapporteurs on Turkey's Obligations, (Marianne Mikko from Estonia and Nigel Evans from the UK), and transmitted by that Committee's President, Sir Roger Gale, from the Governing Brittish Conservative party, with an Official Statement of the Majority of MEPs, expressing "Deep Concern", and Warning that the recent Situation in Turkey "will Impede ... genuinely Democratic Elections", so that, "the overall Legitimacy of these Elections is at Stake", asking "to Postpone" them !


- Turkey has to "Abide" by "CoE's Fundamental values, including the holding of Free and fair Elections", stressed the Statement of that key body of CoE's Assembly, from whose "Green Light" practically Depends EU's decision to hold, or Not, Pre-Accession Negotiations with a Candidate Country, which have recently been practically Stalled with Turkey, and Nowadays face even an Explicit Call inside EU Parliament to Officially "Freeze" them asap, while the Majority of EU Citizens in several Important EU Countries (including France and Germany, etc) notoriously Want to bring Ankara's controversial and unpopular EU bid to a clear End.


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PACE's Monitoring Committee had already expressed its "Deepest Concern", (since April 2018), for the holding of those "Early" Elections, (on June 2018), in the Conditions currently existing in Turkey.


The main Findings of the joint Report adopted Now by CoE and OSCE (comp. Supra), focus on "Amendments (which) Substantialy Change the Rules", and were "adopted ...only 1 Month prior to calling ...Snap Elections", unusually "Early" : "1,5 Years Ahead of Schedule", and "on the Same Day (that was) approved the ...Extension of the State of Emergency", as PACE's "Monitoring" Committee had already deplored previously, expressing "its Deepest Concern", both because "Changing the Election Rules 3 Months Before Election Day" "Contrary to International Standards", "in a Hasty and Non-Inclusive way", as well as since "it is Impossible to hold genuinely Democratic Elections under the State of Emergency", added even to still "on-going Security Operations in South-East Turkey"'s predominantly Kurdish population regions.


- "Serious Questions" are raised, on "several" of these Last-Minute Changes of Rules, "about Election Security, Transparency and possible Interference of the Executive" in those Votes, PACE's Committee had Warned, pointing, f.ex., on "the possible presence of Police forces in polling Stations, which could have a Deterrent effect on Voters", and on "the decision to Accept Non-Stamped Ballot Papers", which risks Stuffing Ballots, etc.


- Already, such "Late Amendments" to Electoral Law (Comp. Supra) "raise 4 Concerns" : 1) They "may Undermine ... a Fair and Stable Framework ... providing... an Equal playing ground". 2) "In particular, if they are Rushed, may be Detrimental to an ...Inclusive ...process". 3) "Might be perceived, ...as politically Biased, that is as Intended to (Dis)Advantage some Political Parties and Candidates", "Undermining Trust" in such Elections. 4) "Diminish the opportunity... to become Informed, ...and Limit the needed Time for ... Preparations, including (administrative) Training and Voter Education". CoE and OSCE point out.


- Such Late Changes were normaly Excluded by the Turkish Constitution, (which required at least "1 Year" before the Elections), but this was Modified in the 2017 Constitutional Reform. However, even the latest's, Shorter Time "Deadline" : "6 Months", was "Significantly Exceeded" by those March-April 2018 Changes to June 2018 Elections...


- This became a fortiori problematic since Many of those "Late Amendments" touched upon "Fundamental Elements of the Electoral System", provoking "particular Concern", CoE and OSCE critically observe :


1) "One" was the "Introduction" of Parties' "Alliances ... in relation to the 10% Electoral Threshold", "very High in Turkey", which "regulates the Transformation of Votes into Seats", and "Impacts a Fundamental Element" : "At the (Late) Time of its Adoption it was Clear ... that this ... could have a Significant Impact on the Electoral Results", and, "indeed", it had "a Direct Impact, ...as it Allowed the junior Partner in the (Nationalist) Opposition Coalition, the (New) <<Good Party Iyi>>, to Meet the Threshold and thus be Represented in Parliament", (while, on the Contrary, the pro-Peace and Democracy, pro-Kurdish "HDP" Party, was attributed Less MPs than otherwise expected).


Moreover, that exceptionally High 10% Threshold had been, in the Past, tolerated in the case of Turkey, mainly on the Pretext to form "Stable" Governments, but Now, after the recent Introduction of a Presidential regime where it's the President who forms any Government (2017), there is "No longer" any "major Justification" for that, and it should be "Reconsidered", CoE and OSCE found.


2) Those "Amendments" also "Changed the Composition and Leadership of the Ballot Box Committees", "by Introducing (Government-Controlled) Civil Servants", including for their "President"; "while, Previously, (only) Party-Nominees were BBC Presidents". Another "Fundamental" point. Particularly when, "due to the perceived Lack of Independence of Turkey's Civil Service from the Political Powers, it's Hard to see how ...BBCs can be considered Impartial, as Required by the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Manners".


In Addition the Turkish Supreme Board of Elections (SBE), ("a Powerful State Organ, which, in addition to Organising elections, also makes final Decisions in electoral Disputes and on the electoral Result, withOut possibility of judicial Review"), and is composed mainly by "Judges", became "Extremely Problematic" on "Independence" after the 2017 "Constitutional Reform" which allows the Turkish President to Control Judges and Prosecutors Directly and/or via its Parliamentary Majority, CoE and OSCE found.


3) Evenmore, "Several Important Safeguards, for Transparency and ...Security, were Affected by the ... Amendments..., which may Undermine the Integrity of Elections". F. ex. :


- "Allowing Ballots that have Not been Stamped by the BBCs to be considered Valid".


"This increases the Risk of Ballot (or Envelope) Stuffing", the Report Denounces. Indeed, "Other safeguard Measures, such as the WaterMark on Ballots, ... are Not a Guarantee that it wasn't Brought in from Outside the Polling Station", and "this Undermines the Voters' Right to an Accurae Assessments of the Ballot's Results". On the Contrary, "Stamping the Ballots or Envelopes is ... a Safeguard that a person is Not able to put More than 1 Ballot into the Ballot Box simultaneously, by Ensuring that Additional Ballots canNot be Brought into a Polling Station". But the Turkish Amendments "do Not ... establish a Procedure", neither "Clear and Objective Criteria" on "Whether an "UnStamped Ballot was ...due to Negligence, or ...Fraud, leaving room for Arbitrary application".


Indeed, alleged "Widespread Stuffing", (mainly in favour of pro-Government Extremist "MHP" Party), impacted these Turkish Elections, particularly in the South-East, also according to Data cited in a "Washington Post" Article, as reported by a reference noted by "Wikipedia", among others.



- "The possibilities" :

 

* "for (Central Government-Controlled)) Governors and Presidents of provincial Electoral Boards (Comp Supra) to request Moving or merging Polling Stations", under "Security" pretexts.


This "raises additional Concerns about ImPartiality", CoE and OSCE Warned, considering also that this "Legislation does Not include Strict, Clear, Objective Parameters for its application", speaking Only about "Security", with a "Wide Margin of Appreciation, which could be Abused, and Lacks Transparency". "ReLocation of a Polling Station may make it Difficult for Voters to exercice their Rights", and it "was Extensively Used in the 2018 Elections", triggering "Claims" that it "Limited Access to the Vote of the Kurdish Population", while "Numerous formal Complaints were lodged".

 


* even "for Voters living in the Same Building Address, to be assigned to Different Polling Stations";


Turkish "Authorities" claimed that it "protected the Secrecy of Vote", but Others "were Concerned that" this "allowed Fraudulent Voting ...(e.g. Deceased Votes to be Registered)" and a "Difficulty for Parties, Voters and Observers to Control the Voting Lists", in Addition to "the Distance of Voters from Polling Stations".

 


* as well as for "the SBE to Determine the Number of Voters per Polling Station", which is "No Longer" Fixed by Law :


A "Discretion" which "may lead to OverCrouding or Discrepancies between Polling Stations, Denying in practice the Right to Vote in some areas" : F.ex., "give Advantages to Majority political parties if More polling Stations are set up in the regions with wider Support for them, while Fewer polling stations are set up in regions where the support is wider among Opposition parties", etc. "Moreover, Voters should be Informed, well in Advance", and "Distance and Transport means ...considered". CoE and OSCE are for "Equality in the Size of Polling Stations", with "a Maximum Number of Voters" to be provided by Law.

 


* and for "Any Voter to request Law-Enforcement presence in Polling Stations", ("in Violation" of International Standards); as well as the "Increased Access for Law-Enforcement Personnel to Buildings housing Polling Stations"; But this may "Disrupt the Voting process by repeated and Unwarranted calls for Security Forces", while "a high level of Unreasoned presence of Police officers in the Polling Stations could Hamper a smooth Voting free from Intimidation", CoE and OSCE Warned.


A fortiori when Amendments also "Restrict" the "Ballot Box Area" only "to the <<Room, Section or Place>> in which a Ballot Box is placed", while, "Before" that, BBArea "also Included a 100 metre Radius Around the Polling Station" : But, by "Narrowing the BBArea", this "also" Extends a possible "presence of Security Forces", "Allowing" it even "in the immediate Vicinity of the Polling Station, including in Hallways of the Buildings that House" them, "where Voters are Queuing", and this "could have an Intimidating effect".

 


* "the Introduction of Mobile Ballot Boxes", (officially due to help Handicaped persons,"unable to be physically present at Polling Stations"), "should" be placed "under Strict Conditions, Avoiding all Risks of Fraud", according to International Standards, and "defined ... in the Legislation, to provide ...Stabiity, ...Predictability; ...Transparency and ...Trust", the Report found.


(Etc.+)


- "Adding to (CoE + OSCE's) Concerns"; such "Amendments were adopted in a Hasty manner, withOut proper Consultation ..(of) the opposition Parties and Civil Society", "moreover made in a State of Emergency, Limiting ...Democratic Debate and the Free Expression of a Plurality of Views", despite the fact that they "may have Significant Consequences for the exercice iof Suffrage Rights" and "the Electoral Result".


=> In Consequence, "Taken Together", all those Late and "Significant Amendments" (Comp. Supra), "their Timing and Process",


(added to the pre-existing Lack of Judicial Review of the decisions of the Supreme Board of Elections [SBE],including on Final Election Results", and to a "system of Seat Allocation to Constituencies, which results in a significant Differential in the Number of Votes per parliamentary seat, ... Inconsistent with ... Equality of the vote"),


=> "Challenge the Legitimacy of Turkish Electoral legislation", CoE and OSCE concluded.


-------------


+ All these Findings are Added, according to CoE Assembly's "Monitoring" Committee's earlier official Statement mentioned above (Comp. Supra), also to the well Known Fact that "the State of Emergency has, since July 2016, led to Disproportional measures and Unacceptable Restrictions of fundamental Freedoms - in particular freedom of Expression, Media, and Assembly. It has Affected Negatively and disproportionally Oppositional and critical Voices", while "No Progress was achieved since then" : A significant number of Parliamentarians from the opposition (10), Journalists (about 150) and Human Rights Defenders remain in Detention, while Many Other face legal cases on Terror-related Charges. Many NGOs were Closed down. Numerous Media have also been Closed down, or Bought up by pro-Government businessmen. A newly adopted Law has Tightened the control of On-Line broadcasting", (etc).


- Even "Repeated" previous Denonciations, by CoE's Assembly and CoE's Anti-Corruption Watchdog "GRECO", related to "Media Coverage, and Funding of Electoral Campaigns and Political Parties" in Turkey, still remain "UnAdressed", "Regretted" PACE's Monitoring Committee.


-----------------


=> That's why PACE's Monitoring Committee's official Call to "Postpone" those Turkish Elections (Comp. Supra) had been adopted already as Early as since April 2018, i.e. 2,5 Months Before the Date Scheduled for the controversial Votes of 24 June 2018, and it's obviously in order to Support this move, that MEPs had asked  CoE's "Venice Commission" Top Legal Experts to examine also those Last-Minute Changes to Turkey's Electoral Law, (f.ex. at their Meeting of 21-22 June 2018).


>>> But, curiously, "Venice Commission"s reaction was Delayed, for unknown yet reasons or pretexts, (particularly in order to Publish the Full Text of its Report), up to ... 17 December 2018 !


However, this CoE's latest Critical Publication almost Coincides with a renewed outbreak of Turkish Government's threats against Syrian Kurds (EU + USA's Allies against ISIS' Islamist Terrorists cowardly Targetting even Civilian People), provocations vis a vis Cyprus and Greece, Interferences in France's internal affairs, and a Trend to Augment the Number of Irregular Migrants/Mass Asylum Seekers send to Europe by Turkish Smugglers, (despite more than 3 Billions € wasted by the EU in a controversial attempt to convince Ankara to prevent that), which are Raising EU, USA's and Other Countries' Concerns.


Meanwhile, the Dates for the Next CoE Assembly's Plenary Session, on January 2019, and for EU Parliament's debate and vote on a New (and more Critical) Report on Turkey's controversial and unpopular EU bid, shortly Before the forthcoming May 2019 European Elections, are Approaching.

 

(../..)
 

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(NDLR : "DraftNews", as already send, Earlier, to "Eurofora"'s Subscribers/Donors. A more accurate, full Final Version, might be Published asap).


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