Debate over ballot security heating up

Debate over ballot security heating up

Debate over ballot security heating up

DHA photo

The decision to move ballot boxes to other districts in some of Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces due to security concerns ahead of the Nov. 1 elections has continued to spark debate in the political arena. 

Justice and Development Party (AKP) Vice Chairman Mehmet Ali Şahin said Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) did not have the authority to decide whether or not ballot boxes could be moved to another place. 

“Does the YSK have the right [to decide not to set up ballot boxes]? In my opinion, they do not. Because I believe the YSK cannot take such a decision without a legal regulation being taken,” said Şahin during a televised show on state-owned channel TRT Haber. 

Şahin said the YSK was responsible for securing the elections – something that would require appropriate regulations.

The YSK will make a final decision on earlier decisions taken by a number of local election councils in eastern and southeastern Anatolia to not conduct voting in certain neighborhoods due to security concerns, amid deadly violence between security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The YSK is expected to make a decision this week. 

“I wait for how the YSK will make a decision with curiosity,” said Şahin. 

The co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, has called on other political parties to coordinate efforts to secure the Nov. 1 elections in constituencies in eastern and southeastern Anatolia, rather than leave the matter to security forces.

“There is no need to be so scared and to panic,” Demirtaş replied late Sept. 30 when he was asked about his advice to the grassroots of the HDP on the prospect of moving polling stations in the upcoming Nov. 1 election.

“I mean the YSK [the Supreme Election Board] may take such a decision in some places due to political impositions. It will hold a meeting on Saturday [Oct. 3],” Demirtaş said as he responded to questions conveyed through Facebook.

The southeastern province of Diyarbakır’s Silvan election board has decided that ballot boxes in 75 neighborhoods could not be set up due to security concerns and that voters residing in these neighborhoods would cast their votes in 16 neighborhoods after the ballot boxes are combined.

Another district election board in Diyarbakır in Sur also decided that votes would not be cast at 57 ballot boxes in nine neighborhoods as there were security problems, ordering that the polling stations be moved elsewhere.

The Erzincan Governor’s Office in Turkey’s east also said in a written statement that security officials had filed requests with the local election boards to move ballot boxes from areas in Erzincan that are close to military security zones.

“The YSK has to review those decisions [by district election councils]. However, there is no need for a great fear and panic if [the YSK] ultimately violates the constitution and decides to openly move the ballot boxes. We will make preparations to organize voters and transport them to ballot boxes nearby,” Demirtaş said in a bid to ease growing concerns.

The HDP’s co-leader echoed an earlier call by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to join efforts to provide election security.

“If the CHP, the AKP [the Justice and Development Party] and the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party] have a concern over security at ballot boxes in Cizre, Nusaybin and Yüksekova, let’s task members of the MYK [Central Executive Board of the political parties], not just polling observers,” Demirtaş said.