Two members of Turkey’s top election body criticize Erdoğan’s role in campaigns

Two members of Turkey’s top election body criticize Erdoğan’s role in campaigns

Two members of Turkey’s top election body criticize Erdoğan’s role in campaigns

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is engaging in “political propaganda” by targeting certain parties, two members of Turkey’s top election body have concluded.

The Supreme Election Board (YSK) had rejected appeals from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Vatan (Homeland) Party earlier this month. 

The parties had asked the YSK to ensure principles of fair broadcasting before the June 7 general elections, claiming that recent speeches of Erdoğan, who should act “impartially” as president, had violated the constitution by “delivering partisan speeches” in support of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Although the YSK rejected all appeals against Erdoğan, two members of the 11-person body opposed the latest decision, according to a report by daily Cumhuriyet on May 15. 

Unforeseen violation

The two members, Ünal Demirci and Ahmet Tuncay, stressed in their opposing votes that the constitution stipulates that the president must remain neutral, but does not lay out what legal sanction is applied if he campaigns for or against a party. The legislator had simply not foreseen such a violation being made by the president.

Still, the two members argued, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) can and should “ensure the rule of law” by ensuring that Erdoğan’s “propaganda speeches” do not break the rules of fair election broadcasting.

According to the report prepared by Süleyman Demirkan, who was elected to the RTÜK as a member from the CHP, Turkish TV stations broadcast Erdoğan’s live speeches for a total of 44 hours and 32 minutes from April 27 to May 3.

‘Double-headed campaign’

So far, Erdoğan has spoken in 11 political rallies. Opposition parties argue that Erdoğan’s speeches have led to an unfair electoral competition, as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also holds his own rallies in support of the ruling AKP. 

Davutoğlu has addressed his supporters at 34 rallies so far in a carefully-planned campaign, in which his speeches generally start after or before Erdoğan’s, in order to ensure that Turkish TV networks broadcast both of them.

In April, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) highlighted concerns over Erdoğan’s “active role in the campaign,” recommending the deployment of a team in order to observe the fairness of the election.