President reacts after Turkey’s election body rejects polling station changes
DHA PhotoPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has branded the Supreme Election Board (YSK) wrong after it rejected calls for the relocation of ballot boxes in several eastern and southeastern districts, saying it would be responsible for any undesired consequences.
“This is where the YSK is on the wrong track. It is the district election authorities which determine the voting neighborhoods in the districts. The YSK is not really interested in this,” Erdoğan said Oct. 4 at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport before departing for France’s Strasbourg to attend an “anti-terror rally.”
“I hope we will not come across the problems we encountered during the June 7 elections. If so, the YSK will be responsible for them,” Erdoğan said.
In a majority of votes, the YSK rejected calls for the relocation of ballot boxes in several districts.
The YSK’s decision came after a number of local election councils in eastern and southeastern Turkey asked that polling stations be moved in certain neighborhoods due to security concerns in the upcoming election amid deadly renewed conflict between security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The six members of the YSK rejected the calls on the grounds that there was no regulation pertaining to the moving of ballot boxes due to security reasons. The four YSK members who voted in favor of the relocation said the YSK was responsible for ensuring the elections are conducted in security from beginning to end and thus had the authority to move the polling stations.
The YSK also rejected an Interior Ministry application asking for time until Oct. 7 in order to complete a risk analysis of the areas in question.
Turkey’s interim government and opposition parties have been at odds on the prospect of moving polling stations for the Nov. 1 snap election, with the main opposition party leader saying such a step would cast a shadow over the results while also 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 the “coercion” of voters in parts of the southeast.
The AKP later split into two camps. One day after AKP Deputy Head Mehmet Ali Şahin said the YSK did not have authority to move polling stations to other villages or neighborhoods without the passage of a legal regulation, AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik claimed in a written statement that it did, citing various similar previous decisions from both district election boards and the YSK.
Şeref Malkoç, the AKP’s representative in the YSK, reacted angrily after the Oct. 3 decision. “This decision by the YSK violates both the laws and the reality,” 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.
Similar decisions were made afterwards by local councils in Diyarbakır province; the downtown districts of Bitlis and Hakkari provinces; the Yüksekova district of Hakkari province and the Silopi district of Şırnak province.
The latest request was made by the district election board in the eastern province of Batman’s city center.
The Oct. 1 decision stated that a total of 170 ballot boxes in 15 neighborhoods could not be set up due to security concerns.
The 170 ballot boxes that would have been located in 26 schools in Batman’s city center would instead be combined with ballot boxes in eight neighborhoods elsewhere in the province, according to the ruling.
Meanwhile, the YSK has imposed a second ban on the AKP’s election jingle, “Haydi Bismillah,” meaning in the name of God, on the grounds that it “abused faith.”
Apart from not being allowed to be used in rallies, media and on the Internet, the election song will also not be allowed to be used in open and closed meeting rooms.