04 January 2019 13:59

Local election in Turkey on March marred by unfairness

Prior to the local election on March, the Supreme Electoral Council is appending its signature to decisions that impair fairness.

Photograph: Ahmet İzgi/AA



  • The Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) has decided that 69 parties may not contest the elections.
  • The tenure of the SEC chair and members has been extended for a further year.
  • Detainees have been deprived of the right to vote.
  • The Parliamentary Speaker, who is supposed to be impartial, is standing as an AKP candidate without resigning.

The run-up to the local elections is underway. The power holders and the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) are appending their signatures to decisions that chip away at electoral fairness. Having taken such decisions as extending the tenure of the SEC chair and members for a further year and depriving detainees of the right to vote, it has now resolved that only thirteen parties are to contest the local elections. The EMEP and ÖDP are not included among the parties that will fight the election. The AKP, on the other hand, is fielding the Parliamentary Speaker, who is supposed to be impartial, as the AKP candidate for Istanbul without him resigning. Now, Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım will conduct an election campaign using the state’s resources. Political party representatives regard this flurry of decisions as being indicative of “unfairness” and “the weakness of the ruling party.”

Speaking to our newspaper, CHP Deputy General Chair Faik Öztrak indicated that the decisions taken in the past week have raised serious concerns and worries over electoral fairness. Recalling that the SEC had previously dispensed with fines and broadcasting suspensions for failing to broadcast equally, Öztrak also criticised the President using all the state’s resources and actively campaigning over this period. Stressing that Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım’s mayoral candidacy without resigning was in total violation of the Constitution, Öztrak said that amendments made to the Electoral Law such as the extending of the tenure of SEC members had counterparts in the Constitution and could not be implemented in the 31 March local elections. Öztrak noted that the amendment depriving detainees of the right to vote was a measure that obstructed the right to vote enshrined in the Constitution. 


Stressing that these changes had made the electoral process entirely problematic, CHP Deputy General Chair Faik Öztrak stated they would also initiate legal proceedings over the measures that will give an advantage to the ruling party in the local elections. Indicating that they had taken precautions of all kinds come what may, Öztrak said, “Our citizens see the truth as an election under unfair conditions beckons. We will make the necessary applications and you will see our people giving a warning message to the AKP and its partner in this election. Faint heartedness gets you nowhere.”


HDP Siirt Member of Parliament Meral Danış Beştaş, in turn, stated that the extended tenure for SEC members, preventing detainees from voting and Binali Yıldırım’s failure to resign amounted to a continuation of the non-recognition of the Constitution and the law. Noting that the AKP wished have its election campaign taken forward on four prongs in combination with the SEC, parliamentary speakership and directorates of civil registry, Beştaş commented, “We do not accept this. We are continuing with all our efforts both legally and politically for there to be a fair, democratic election. These amendments to the law are being used for an unlawful purpose. In fact, illegality is being made normal. This is actually a proclamation that they cannot win the election under a normal, equal contest.”

Stating that Parliamentary Speaker Binali Yıldırım’s mayoral candidacy without resigning from his post pointed to a thinness in the AKP ranks, Beştaş said, “This is actually a proclamation of the AKP’s suicide, of its weakness. It is another way of saying, ‘We are unable to find another candidate and we will not place our present candidate at risk so let him return to his post if he is unelected as mayor’ It is the confession of a lack of self-confidence. It means there are very few people to assume such positions.”


The Supreme Electoral Council has determined which political parties qualify to contest the 31 March local elections. Announcing that there were thirteen political parties that will contest the election, the SEC has ruled out 69 parties. The parties that will contest the election are as follow: The Justice and Development Party (AKP), Independent Turkey Party (BTP), Great Unity Party (BBP), Republican People’s Party (CHP), Democratic Party (DP), Democratic Left Party (DSP), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Free Cause Party (HÜDAPAR), Good Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Felicity Party (SP), Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and the Patriotic Party.


The Labour Party (EMEP) and the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) were not included among the parties that are to contest the election. In a statement she made, Labour Party General Chair Selma Gürkan said that despite Court of Cassation records showing that it was qualified to contest the election, the stance of the SEC, the taker of this decision, was an antidemocratic decision that was far from objectivity and based entirely on arbitrariness. Gürkan said, “Given that the single-man administration organizes and holds sway over all institutions, with the SEC’s impartiality and objectivity in any case up for debate, they have brought their legitimacy in institutional terms into greater question with this decision.” Noting that they had met the requisite conditions to contest the election in spite of the antidemocratic provisions of the political parties’ law, Gürkan announced that they would make the necessary objections supported by data and documents and called on the SEC to rectify the decision.

Speaking to our newspaper, ÖDP Board of Chairs Member Alper Taş said they had carried out what was required in organizational terms as per the conditions for contesting the local elections. Noting that for this reason they would lodge an objection submission forthwith, Taş indicated that they would make a more detailed explanation after having objected.