Turkey's election body rejects calls to move ballot boxes in Nov. 1 polls

Turkey's election body rejects calls to move ballot boxes in Nov. 1 polls

Turkeys election body rejects calls to move ballot boxes in Nov. 1 polls Turkey's Supreme Election Board (YSK) has rejected calls for relocation of ballot boxes in several districs.

The YSK's decision, taken by a majority of votes, came after a number of local election councils in the eastern and southeastern Turkey requsted to not conduct voting 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).

Turkey’s interim government and opposition parties were at odds on the prospect of moving polling stations in the 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 AKP had later split into two camps. One day after AKP Deputy Head Mehmet Ali Şahin said the YSK does not have authority to decide on the moving of ballot boxes to other villages or neighborhoods before a legal regulation is passed, 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.

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.

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 would not be set up due to security concerns. 

The 170 ballot boxes that would have been in 26 schools in Batman’s city center will instead be combined with ballot boxes in eight neighborhoods elsewhere in the province, according to the ruling.

Şeref Malkoç, 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.