OSCE notes concerns over president’s ‘active campaign’ ahead of June vote
Cihan PhotoIn the run-up to the June 7 parliamentary elections, the top European security body has highlighted concerns in Turkey over incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “active role in the campaign,” as they have recommended the deployment of a team in order to observe the election.
“The election campaign started on March 10 and is expected to be dynamic and potentially hard fought, due to the continued polarization between the governing party and opposition parties,” said a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) report by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors anticipate the campaign to focus on economic issues, human rights, corruption investigations, the Kurdish-Turkish peace process as well as the question of constitutional reform towards a more presidential system. Many OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors raised concerns over a potential misuse of state administrative resources and the president’s active role in the campaign,” said the report, which was the product of a visit to Turkey from April 14 to April 17.
“In addition, some concerns were noted regarding the freedom of assembly and the possibility to campaign freely in several provinces due to heightened security-related issues,” it said.
The OSCE was not the first international organization to take notice of concerns in Turkey over conduct of a fair and safe election on June 7.
Luis Ayala, the secretary-general of Socialist International (SI), visited Turkey in March in order to show solidarity with the main opposition social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the face of a media campaign by pro-government papers. He said he would ask all members of the SI to watch what is happening in Turkey throughout the elections.
“I myself will be in Turkey with a delegation to observe the elections,” Ayala said at the time. “We do not want this issue to overshadow free and fair elections in Turkey,” he said.
Transparency and media environment
The OSCE, meanwhile, also touched upon the presence of flaws regarding campaign finance, which is overseen by the Constitutional Court.
“There is limited regulation and transparency over campaign finance,” according to the delegation.
“Political parties are only required to declare campaign contributions and expenditures within their annual financial reports and independent candidates through individual tax declarations. Many OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors noted the regulation of campaign finance remains insufficient overall,” it said.
“The media environment is characterized by numerous broadcast and print outlets and an ever-increasing significance placed on online and social media. OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors stated that the majority of media outlets are perceived to be associated with certain political parties, with significantly more coverage allocated to the governing party. Parties are already running paid political advertisements and will be granted free airtime on the public broadcaster during the last ten days of the campaign. Independent candidates do not qualify for free airtime,” it said.
Analysts and long-term observers
In its report which was released earlier this week, as well as recommending deployment of a Limited Election Observation Mission (LEOM) to observe the June 7 vote, the OSCE delegation also said: “In addition to a core team of analysts, the OSCE/ODIHR NAM recommends the secondment of 20 long-term observers from OSCE participating States.”
The LEOM will include a media monitoring element in its mission in line with the organization’s standard methodology.