Turkey’s top election body refuses blame on massive data leak

Turkey’s top election body refuses blame on massive data leak

Oya Armutçu - ANKARA
Turkey’s top election body refuses blame on massive data leak

AA photo

Turkey’s top election authority has refused to take the blame for the leak of a database which appeared to contain personal information on nearly 50 million Turkish citizens, while a member of the main opposition party has suggested the leak was “an operation” by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government aiming to control the election system.

The explanation by Supreme Election Board (YSK) President Sadi Güven on April 8 came a few days after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the number of people whose names had been leaked was comparable to the number of voters on the electoral register.

Implying there could be a political link, Bozdağ said earlier this week that the YSK shared information on the electoral register with all political parties.

“Where this was leaked from and finding out how it was leaked is what the investigation needs to focus on,” Bozdağ said. 

Güven said their institution had fulfilled what was required by law.

“There is no such thing as data theft [in this leak]. Those are allegations,” Güven said, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) representative at the YSK, Mehmet Hadimi Yakupoğlu, made clear that what the YSK made public and shared with political parties was not “personal data” but electorate information which was legally required to be delivered. 

“In every election period, we give the registers of voters’ lists to political parties as a requirement of the mandatory provision of the law. I cannot know what happened afterwards,” Güven said.

“It has been seen that the data on the file which was circulated on the Internet matched the files shared in 2008. We know who got those lists at the time but who leaked them, that is something to know for the judiciary,” he said.

Justice Ministry in action

The Justice Ministry has meanwhile launched efforts to amend the election law. Turkish political parties have been able to get the national identity number, name, surname, parents’ names, gender, birth date, birth place and address of each electorate in line with the regulations in force since 2007. 

With the planned amendment, either this set of information will not be given to political parties anymore or the parties will be solely given voters’ names, surnames and ballot box information.

Paving the way for ‘open vote and classifications secretly’

Yakupoğlu underlined the set of information provided by the YSK to political parties was not “personal data,” but “electorate information” in line with the law. 

“This is an AKP operation,” Yakupoğlu said, recalling that AKP Diyarbakır deputy Galip Ensarioğlu recently indicated their government was presently holding control of “executive, judicial and legislative powers in the present parliamentary system.”

“Now, they also want to control elections. They want to pave the way for an ‘open vote and classifications secretly,’” Yakupoğlu said, referring to a non-democratic principle.

“After 2011, elections are being held through the SEÇSİS,” he said, referring to the Computer Supported Central Voter Registry System (SEÇSİS) used by the YSK.

“To have healthy supervision over the SEÇSİS, the YSK needs to give that set of information to us. If that set of information is not provided to us, then no opportunity to supervise the elections would remain,” he added.

Bozdağ: ‘Ill-minded’ objection

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the southeastern province of Bitlis on April 8, Bozdağ acknowledged they were planning changes in the legislation.

“We are working on either giving personal data within certain rules or not giving [personal data] at all. We will decide on this. They have started saying, ‘The election rigging has already begun.’ You are the ones who are ill-minded,” Bozdağ said, apparently referring to speculations mounting over the issue which have been voiced by both opposition parties and dissidents.

“You get moistened from a cloud,” he said, using a Turkish idiom meaning, “You get very touchy.”

“You haven’t given up looking with a jaundiced eye on these sincere efforts. The aim is preventing this information from falling into other hands through unlawful means,” he said.