Voices inside and outside Turkey we all observe the same thing: The referendum campaign in Turkey was not made under equal democratic terms; Tayyip Erdogan used almost every sources of state to gain his islamist “totalitaire” dictatorship during last two months.
‘Evet’ or ‘Hayir’? That’s the Question in Polarised Turkey regarding the Constitutional Referendum taking place the 16th of April.
Wandering around Istanbul and the photos we see from pro and anti Erdogan media, it’s clear that the resources of the campaign backing an expansion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers in the April 16 referendum vastly exceed those of his opponents.
The constitutional referendum will take place on 16 April. It will be conducted under a state of emergency following an attempted military coup on 15 July 2016 that resulted in a number of arrests, detentions, and dismissals. Several OSCE/ODIHR NAM interlocutors raised concerns about holding a referendum during a state of emergency, while those from the state institutions, including the election administration, noted that the restrictions arising from the emergency decrees will not affect the referendum campaign. The referendum package contains 18 amendments to the Constitution. The amendments include the introduction of an executive presidency to replace the existing parliamentary system of government; the abolition of the prime-ministerial office; and most of the oversight responsibilities of the parliament; a number of judiciary reforms, and; an increase in the number of seats in parliament.
Turks will vote “Yes” or “No” ,essentially, on whether to shift governmental powers from the parliament to the president’s office, currently held by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Recent polls (that a lot of sources and media are questioning their validity) show results are too close to predict, with about 10 percent of voters remaining undecided.
“For the nation and for the flag: ‘Yes’ (‘Evet’ in Turkish) with all our hearts,” one poster reads. “‘Yes’ for our tomorrows” says another, advertising a mass meeting by Erdogan earlier this month. “A country with a strong leadership guarantees stability”, journalist Nagehan Alçı stresses, making a case for the presidential system in Milliyet.
Advertising for the “No” campaign (“Hayir” in Turkish) is less widespread but still conspicuous, showing a simple picture of a young girl and the slogan “For our Future”.According to Penguen, the airtime for live broadcasts for the “Yes” campaign on television outstrips 10-fold that of the “No” campaign.
For DW.de reporting from Turkey’s capital Ankara, it is hard to think amidst the noise these days. Campaign buses are parked daily on opposite corners of Kizilay square, each one blasting propaganda as shoppers snake through crowds of flag wavers and flyer distributors.Foot traffic is heavy and campaigners from across the political spectrum work side by side to sway voters for the upcoming referendum.
That outburst was a reference to national news coverage of the referendum, in which “Yes” vote supporters were getting significantly more airtime than their counterparts. A recent study of TRT Haber, the publicly-owned and financed national broadcaster, found that President Erdogan and officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been given 4,113 minutes of coverage in the first three weeks of March. During the same period, opposition advocates with Republican People’s Party (CHP) were on air for 216 minutes while the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) had just one minute of coverage.
- Erdogan’s Party bans Opposition’s rallies:
According to soL International, (1 & 2) the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) ‘s rallies have been banned twice this month. The Communist Party of Turkey(TKP), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Communist Party of Poland and the Communist Party of Albania made statements regarding the ban of the İstanbul Governer on the rally of TKP in İstanbul. (source)
HANDS OFF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF TURKEY!
Upon recent unlawful bans, TKP has made a public declaration: “The Governorship of İstanbul has disallowed the rally of the Communist Party of Turkey that is scheduled to be held on April 8 in İstanbul. The Governorship has conveyed our Party administration that two other meetings other than the rally of TKP will be held in that day in İstanbul, thus there is no adequate police force due to the meetings of AKP and HDP.”
Revealing the unlawful and biased decision of the Turkish Interior Minister, the statement of TKP continues: “The Interior Ministry, therefore, has announced that it will mobilise its all forces to protect Erdoğan in Yenikapı. However, the Communist Party of Turkey does not need any police force to hold a secure and disciplined meeting in Kartal. Indeed, the Governorship has exactly implied, ‘We do not have enough police force to prevent, isolate and intimidate those citizens who will participate your meetings’.”
Indicating that the government imposes bans on referendum activities in order to portray the ‘no’ side of the referendum as “provocateurs”, TKP’s statement says: “Those who also banned an outdoor activity of TKP last week intend to silence the voice of the people. This is yet another scandal during the referendum process which is continuing with complete injustice and biases.”
TKP concludes the statement: “We will not allow President Erdoğan to say ‘They instigate troubles again’ in Yenikapı. We will pursue this incident in terms of laws. We will politically prove once again that they will not be able to silence the voice of the working people.”
- Europe , Turkey and Human Rights
Erdoğan’s plan for gaining more power hasn’t convinced anyone in Europe. There is no such presidential system practically anywhere on the Old Continent, and consequently it is viewed with considerable distrust. Nevertheless, this is not just a debate about political principles. … The referendum campaign has intensified the people’s distrust of the Erdoğan regime. This distrust was first awakened after the so-called Sultan’s wave of arrests in the summer of 2016 and remains intact today. The result of the referendum is open, but one effect can already be seen: relations between Turkey and the EU have become considerably more tense. In the eyes of the Europeans, Erdoğan has already lost.
For Die Welt “should President Erdoğan win the referendum and transform his country into an absolutist presidential system, in the first place it would bring stability to the country. The president would no doubt become more pragmatic and at least curtail the violations of basic democratic rights. An amnesty for political prisoners would then be on the cards. What’s more, such a situation would lead to détente between Turkey and the West. …
And if the referendum fails? Then he’ll try to call new elections as soon as possible. He would do his utmost to obtain a two-thirds majority in parliament, which would in turn allow him to push through his longed-for constitutional reform. Such a scenario would lead to huge instability and insecurity. Turkey would face chaotic times. Power technocrat Erdoğan would then use force and even violence to close the ranks behind him. And he would step up his policy of repression”.
The Yes camp conducted an aggressive and intimidating campaign outside Turkey too. The Dutch paper De Volkskrant reports that Turkish-Dutch voters who don’t necessarily support Erdoğan have been bombarded via Diyanet [Turkish state] mosques, Turkish TV channels and social networks to such an extent that they fear for themselves and their relatives in Turkey. The Yes camp has deepened the rifts in Turkish community in the Netherlands. This is absolutely undesirable and lamentable. Unfortunately there is barely any tolerance within the Turkish community for Turkish-Dutch who belong to the No camp. They therefore deserve our support and solidarity and even our admiration if they have the courage to openly voice their rejection of the Erdoğan regime
- International Observers Report
The “OSCE/ODIHR NEEDS ASSESSMENT MISSION REPORT” hold between the 22 to 24 February 2017 regarding the upcoming referendum assessed that currently the Constitution and the legal framework do not sufficiently guarantee the freedom of expression in Turkey . In particular, unduly broad provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Criminal Code, including on insult of the president, allow prosecution and imprisonment of journalists.
Moreover, some provisions of the decrees enacted under the state of emergency further restrict the freedom of expression.The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) in a recent statement “condemned continued arrests of journalists and called on authorities to restore media pluralism in Turkey.”
Similarly, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe noted that “the deterioration of media freedoms and freedom of expression in Turkey, had already reached seriously alarming levels, and has intensified even further under the state of emergency.” The OSCE RFoM, the CoE Commissioner, the PACE have also expressed concerns over the freedom of expression on Internet.1
- ‘We expect fraud’
For the OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, the legislation allows for observation by representatives of political parties and stipulates that the vote count is public. However, it does not contain provisions permitting effective observation by international and citizen observers, despite a previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendation that the legislation be amended to provide for access of international and citizen observers to all stages of the electoral process, in line with the commitments from the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.26 Representatives from some civil society organizations that observed past elections informed the OSCE/ODIHR NAM that they will either refrain from observation or significantly limit their efforts due to the overall political and security situation.
During a phone interview given to DW.de , Hakan Ozturk, a board member for the opposition-affiliated Unity for Democracy (DIB), said, “We expect fraud.”
“In our country you cannot just vote and go home and wait for results,” Ozturk said. “You have to protect votes one by one, because we have witnessed fraud many times.”
Citing occurrences of ballot box stuffing and the use of fake names in past elections, he highlighted the importance of observers at polling sites, who help count votes and document results through cell phone pictures that they upload to databases.
Generally, Ozturk said, the most difficult votes to track were those of state employees, particularly members of the armed forces who are stationed away from their home towns and have more flexibility in choosing voting sites.
In the run-up to, during and after the Turkish general election of June 2015, numerous accusations of electoral fraud and violence were made by opposition parties. Electoral fraud in Turkey has usually been most extensive during local elections, where individual votes have significantly larger impact in determining local administrations. Although the 2014 presidential election saw little evidence of electoral misconduct, issues regarding voter records as well as extensive media bias have been controversial issues that have remained largely unaddressed.In both the local and presidential elections in 2014, several voters reported that ballot papers had been sent to addresses that are wrong or do not exist as well as voters that have been dead for a substantial amount of time.
“The Washington Post” reported that the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) “by most measures benefited from the extensive frauds that we detect, especially in eastern Turkey,” in areas where voters tend to lean towards the HDP.
Journalist Necati Doğru complains in Sözcü that state funding is being abused and the unequal campaign conditions work in the governing AK Party’s favour:
“Public buildings have been plastered from top to bottom with Yes posters. Life-sized posters of the statesman who ‘wants to be president and party leader’ have been put up on mountain trails and at road junctions. Governors, district administrators, mayors and imams have been mobilised. Even schoolchildren have been taken to propaganda events for the Yes campaign on the grounds that they’re being prepared for exams. The president, prime minister, ministers, advisors and party friends all fly in planes and helicopters paid for by the state to campaign for the referendum. … They are abusing the administration and state funding for their propaganda, to win Yes votes. The people see these abuses of power and should teach these people a lesson.”
— Wally Sarkeesian (@gagrulenet) 15 avril 2017
- Sources: Wikipedia, DW.de, Twitter (photos), WashingtonPost, CNN, Sözcü, Hurriyet Daily English
- (Sorry for the big post, but we tried to cover a lot of aspects of tomorrow’s referendum as this will shape the country’s near and long-term future. In any case we wouldn’t like to see Turkey transforming in a new Iran or Saudi Arabia as we don’t trust Erdogan.Thank you )