Tight security measures to be taken on Turkey's election day
Fevzi Kızılkoyun - ANKARA
CİHAN PhotoTurkish security forces will take extraordinary measures to provide security during the June 7 elections, as 150,000 police officers will be on duty during election day.
As part of the measures, weekend days off for security forces, including officers and the gendarmerie, have been canceled in order to efficiently address any kind of unrest.
With days left until the parliamentary elections in which more than 53 million Turkish citizens will cast their votes to elect the next government, the Interior Ministry has completed and distributed a circular to 81 provinces.
According to the circular, foot and motor patrols will be provided around polling stations and on the main roads of provinces. Election coordination centers will also be established at police departments in all 81 provinces. Helicopters will be used for aerial patrolling, especially in larger towns.
Places of entertainment will be closed on Sunday and restaurants cannot serve alcohol until the end of the day. Nobody except security forces will be able to carry guns on election day.
Security forces have been notified that they can frisk persons and search vehicles on the basis of reasonable doubt, as part of a recently adopted domestic security package that grants additional powers to security forces.
The gendarmerie, police and coast guard will take security precautions on the routes on which the reports and ballot papers will be transported to local election centers. In places where the risk of terrorism is high, these reports and ballot papers will be carried by armored vehicles and helicopters. This will be implemented especially in remote parts of the Southeast and East Anatolia regions.
Bar associations establish centers
In the meantime, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) has established an “Election Safety Center,” which consists of volunteer lawyers trained in election law. The TBB’s effort is being coordinated with the “Vote and Beyond” (Oy ve Ötesi) initiative and aims to take care of election safety in the capital. It will establish mobile teams of lawyers that will monitor the election process and report it.
“The loss of trust in elections is the largest danger facing democracy and social peace. With the TBB Election Safety Center, our aims for this election are that it takes place in an environment of trust and legal basis, freely reflects the citizens’ will, fulfills the legal conditions for the right of voters to vote freely and contributes to this pursuit,” TBB head Metin Feyzioğlu said in a statement.
YSK assures citizens on safety
Amid growing concerns over the election safety and that there could be fraud in the vote-counting process, the head of the Supreme Election Board (YSK), Sadi Güven, sought to assure citizens that there would be no problem and that the whole process would go smoothly.
“The elections will take place in safety. Our citizens should be aware of it, they should be at ease. Our parties should send their representatives to effectively control the ballot boxes,” Güven told reporters late June 2. He also explained why the YSK printed more ballot papers than required, stressing that it was a legal necessity.
Although the YSK head stressed that the process would be implemented in full safety and that there will be a place for anybody to intervene in the vote-counting process, the ruling party appealed to the election watchdog on June 3 over concerns that the parallel structure would cheat in polls and put the blame on the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
AKP appeals to YSK
Speaking to daily Hürriyet as he appealed to the YSK, the head of the election affairs of the AKP, Mustafa Şentop, stressed that there was speculation of potential manipulation by the Fethullah Gülen community, which the government has dubbed the parallel state.
Şentop expressed his concerns that the members of the parallel state could commit election fraud on June 7 to be blamed on the ruling party so as to launch a debate over the integrity of the polls. “We have seen these games in the past,” Şentop said, calling the YSK to launch an investigation over speculations.
“We will not allow this. We have very experienced polling clerks. The election crimes and sentences given to this are well known. Our clerks will use all their rights. We will not allow anybody to cheat in the polls,” he said.
Universities, schools closed
In the meantime, the Supreme Education Board (YÖK) demanded all universities suspend education between June 5 and 9 so that university students can also vote. The Education Ministry announced a one-day break for primary and secondary as well as high schools on June 8 as schools will be used as the main polling stations on June 7.