Plan to move ballot boxes for ‘security’ sets gov’t, opposition at loggerheads
ANKARATurkey’s interim government and opposition parties are at odds on the prospect of moving polling stations in the upcoming Nov. 1 snap election, with the main opposition party leader saying such a step would make the results “shady,” raising questions over “the presence of the state” in certain places.
“A practice such as moving ballot boxes or voters is very dangerous. This is what it means: ‘There is no state there.’ You will create an environment where the state doesn’t exist and this is very dangerous,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in remarks published on Sept. 30.
The leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, however, said “everyone should respect decisions taken by the top election authority” in the country. He also suggested that the practice would “expose the game” of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he claimed relied on “coercion” of voters in parts of the southeast.
The Supreme Election Board (YSK) is expected to make a final decision this week on earlier decisions taken by a number of local election councils in the eastern and southeastern Anatolia to not conduct voting in certain neighborhoods due to security concerns, amid deadly renewed conflict between security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In an interview with daily Milliyet, CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu said he “couldn’t believe it when he heard of the decision.”
“I thought they must have been joking, but then it emerged that it is serious. Is such a thing possible? The constitutional rules are obvious. There is an election law,” he added.
“When the country has such serious problems, you’re leaving all of them aside and dealing with something else. You’re thinking, ‘How I can take away the ballot boxes?’ If you’re saying, ‘There is no security, I’m not able to provide security,’ then what are you doing in the administration and in the ministry office? You must provide security,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
However, in New York, where he has been representing Turkey at the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Davutoğlu dismissed concerns over the moving of ballot boxes.
“If the YSK, as an independent institution of Turkey, is considering this with regard to election security in Turkey, then everybody should respect that,” he was quoted as saying late on Sept. 29 by state-run Anadolu Agency.
Earlier remarks by HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen published in daily Birgün on Sept. 28 had created controversy, as it was interpreted that his party was considering “boycotting” the elections if polling stations were moved. Bilgen later said his remarks were “misrepresented.”
“Every means of pushing the HDP out of the ballot boxes and parliament is being sought,” he stated via his Twitter account.
“We are not debating ‘boycotting,’ but we are discussing opportunities of giving the strongest lesson of democracy to those who dream of closing down our party or leaving it under the [10 percent parliamentary] threshold,” he added.
In New York, Davutoğlu claimed Bilgen’s remarks “exposed” the HDP’s coercion-based politics.
“This statement actually reveals what the HDP has at the back of its mind. Lifting the conditions where pressure can be put [on voters] in places where there is no security is a development that exposes the HDP’s game. That’s why they are giving such reaction,” he said.
The District Election Council in Cizre in Şırnak province decided on Sept. 18 to not establish any ballot box in the district’s Cudi, Nur and Sur neighborhoods, as well as many villages. The decision cited security concerns and the risk of bomb attacks during the vote as the reason to prevent voting in these areas.
The same kind of decisions were released afterwards by local councils in Diyarbakır province; the downtown districts of Bitlis and Hakkari provinces; the Yüksekova town of Hakkari province; the Silopi town of Şırnak province; and Batman province.