Sunday

24th Jan 2021

Media crackdown and violence taint Turkey election

  • Turkey's campaign was marred by violence and media crackdowns, observers say (Photo: Jorge Franganillo)

Turkey’s president on Monday (2 November) demanded respect for his party’s victory in elections marred by a media crackdown and violence.

“The national will manifested itself on 1 November in favour of stability,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Monday (2 November) after praying at a mosque in Istanbul.

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The Turkish strongman called for global recognition of the outcome, which marked a turnaround for his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP).

The AKP, in a previous vote in June, failed to secure a majority. But the new elections saw it sweep back to single party rule.

“Is this your understanding of democracy?”, Erdogan said, according to Reuters, in a swipe at critics of electoral standards.

“Now a party with some 50 percent in Turkey has attained power … This should be respected by the whole world, but I have not seen such maturity”.

For its part, the Vienna-based rights watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was tasked with overseeing the election, published a damning preliminary report the same day.

It said the vote was marred by a media crackdown, violence and other security concerns.

It said the campaign was characterised by “unfairness” and “fear” after a surge in violence.

Physical attacks

“While Turkish citizens could choose between genuine and strong political alternatives in this highly polarised election, the rapidly diminishing choice of media outlets, and restrictions on freedom of expression in general, impacted the process and remain serious concerns,” Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the head of the OSCE mission, said in a statement.

In the run-up to the elections riot police stormed the Ankara and Istanbul offices of two television stations deemed too critical of Erdogan.

“Physical attacks on party members, as well as the significant security concerns, particularly in the southeast, further imposed restrictions on the ability to campaign,” the OSCE’s Amor noted.

Observers also said Turkish military operations in the Kurdish-dominated south-east hampered the ability of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to seek votes.

A suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara last month also killed over 100 people.

“Unfortunately, the campaign for these elections was characterised by unfairness and, to a serious degree, fear,” said Andreas Gross, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) delegation, which also oversaw Sunday’s elections.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said the process was “unfair”.

But observers did not question the result of the election or the accuracy of the vote-count.

EU-Turkey partnership

The EU Commission said in a short statement that the vote reaffirmed the strong commitment of the Turkish people to democratic processes.

“The EU will work together with the future government in order to further enhance the EU-Turkey partnership and to continue to advance our cooperation across all areas for the benefit of all citizens,” it noted.

The EU is seeking Turkey’s help to stem the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe, wih a record number of people crossing by sea in October.

The UN’s refugee agency said 218,394 migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea last month, almost as many as the total number of arrivals in 2014.

In October, 210,265 people reached Greece from Turkey, according to the UNHCR. At least 70 people drowned trying to reach Greek islands in the past week.

So far this year, 601,079 have made it to Greece by sea.

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