Turkey: Analyzing the Ballot Boxes

What I think I understand from these resent articles on the Turkish elections:

  • Each time the votes are re-counted, the tallies are different – sometimes in the AKP’s favor, sometimes in the CHP’s favor.  Thus it seems that, even if there wasn’t any tampering with the ballot boxes, the whole process of counting was not always careful, and real outcomes might be quite different than reported.  Why this matters: Even if, counted correctly, the vote was still in favor of the AKP, a smaller margin of victory would change the winning party’s tune, and we would probably hear less about a “mandate from the people”. 
  • Even if the AKP did win enough votes to take the mayoral seats in the contested cities (which is now under doubt), it seems they were very insecure about their victory, and behind Erdogan’s high-power speeches is a lurking fear that he and his party will soon be deposed.
  • Regardless of who they voted for in this election, the mess with the ballot boxes will probably shake people’s trust in the current government; at some point, even the conservative lower-middle class from the East (those who have arguably benefited the most from the AKP’s 12-year-reign) will start to wonder if their growing economic prosperity will continue, and if the government really has their interests at heart.

Daily Saban: OBJECTIONS TO POLL RESULTS SORTED OUT

Close results from Sunday’s mayoral elections spur a multitude of objections, with the election watchdog YSK sorting out legitimate concerns

  • Daily Sabah
  • Published : 02.04.2014 19:47:46
 
Objections to poll results sorted out

ISTANBUL — Mayoral candidates who lost in Sunday’s elections objected to the results in some provinces and localities. The Supreme Election Board (YSK) has been inundated with objections since Sunday.
In some of the cases, the objecting party gained more votes whereas in others the results worked in favor of another party. In Antalya, a city located along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, the election results showed the Justice and Development (AK) Party had more votes than the Republican People’s Party (CHP). CHP candidate Mustafa Akaydın opposed the results and called for a recount, arguing there was misconduct during the first count.
Akaydın’s objection was rejected by the Supreme Election Board (YSK). Akaydın said there was nothing else the party could do and he has “complete trust in law.” In the eastern province of Ardahan, CHP candidate Mete Özdemir objected the results in 25 boxes out of 45.
While the gap between the CHP and AK Party was 55 prior to the recount, it went up to 75, increasing AK Party’s votes. Faruk Köksoy, AK Party’s candidate and the mayor of Ardahan, noted the elections were a democratic race and his party believes in democracy.
“Therefore we do not have anything against the objections,” said Köksoy. Ballot boxes in Muğla’s Dalaman and Köyceğiz districts were also recounted, resulting in the transfer of victory from the AK Party to the CHP. In Köyceğiz, AK Party candidate Kamil Ceylan was ahead with 10 votes, which was objected by the CHP. After the recount, the CHP had four more votes than the AK Party, who is expected to object to the figures resulting from the recount. The race in Dalaman, on the other hand, was between three candidates:
Sedat Yılmaz, the current mayor from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), AK Party candidate Süleyman Camuzcuoğlu and CHP candidate Muhammet Şaşmaz, who also opposed the election results after the announcement the AK Party won. A recount resulted in a victory for the CHP, which many expect to be objected by the AK Party and MHP.
The AK Party objected the election results in the Kartal district in Istanbul when it was discovered over 13,000 votes were counted as invalid in 325 ballot boxes. Upon request, the local election board inspected and recounted the ballots, which resulted in an increase of CHP’s votes and the CHP’s victory in the district. In response to the results, CHP Group Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi said the provisions of the law were fully utilized. “Law in Turkey is still standing, as was evident by Kartal’s election board’s respectable decision,” he said. One of the most contentious cities was Yalova, where the initial results showed the AK Party won by a single vote.
The CHP objected and requested a recount of votes in 124 ballot boxes based on the grounds that 154 ballots with votes for the CHP were written on paper as “1” and their votes were counted in the Democratic People’s Party (HDP) column instead.
Following the recount, CHP candidate Vefa Salman was ahead of the others with five votes. The AK Party is expected to object the results shortly after the recount. Yakup Bilgin Koçal, AK Party’s candidate in Yalova, said CHP’s Group Deputy Chairman Muharrem İnce was trying to provoke and misinform the people of Yalova. Acknowledging the fact that there were errors in two ballot boxes, Koçal said there were also errors in the counting of the AK Party’s votes, which were allegedly written under the Great Unity Party’s (BBP) column in the official report and noted his party submitted a formal objection to the results.”

 

Cihan: Lessons from the Local Election

“The winner of Turkey’s 2014 local elections is clear.
The governing party received more votes than most people expected. However, we must keep in mind that the campaigning period was marked by an atmosphere of unprecedented political polarization. That is why post-election Turkey is a much more divided country.
Like it or not, the governing party’s polarization strategy has been a success. The problem is that no one knows how such a polarized country can be governed wisely. If the current sociopolitical tension persists, the polarization may deepen as we have two polls on the horizon: the presidential and general elections. Under these circumstances, whoever wins these elections will have a very hard time trying to govern the country.
The results of the local elections have proven that the Turkish people do not take any risks when it comes to the country’s stability. Maybe those who voted in favor of the governing party don’t approve of everything the government is doing right now. Nevertheless, the important thing is that they don’t trust the opposition parties. Everyone is aware that we have a problem of transparency and freedom in Turkey and that the government is progressively adopting a harder stance. Nevertheless, it seems that almost half of the nation believes the government’s recent hard measures were taken because of external attacks.
Corruption allegations had no major impact on the voters’ behavior. It also seems that most people didn’t care about the restrictions on liberal democratic freedoms, because the social groups who demand these freedoms don’t constitute the country’s majority. The majority of people in the country feel that they are now represented at the government level after long being kept out of the power centers. They fear losing their current advantageous position and the return of the regime of military tutelage. The election’s outcome has proven that in their eyes the extraordinary conditions that justify their fears still exist.
One can accuse the government of not doing enough to change these extraordinary conditions and normalize the country. However, the government’s “victimization” rhetoric gives it positive results at elections. The voters in Turkey care a great deal about economic conditions and reward the political party that promises stability and well-being. Besides, ordinary people fear that the armed conflict may resume in southeast Turkey; thus they support the party that has implemented the peace process.
In fact, those two subjects, economic stability and the peace process, are intertwined. The Kurdish opening is one of the guarantees for economic growth.
The local elections have been a success for the governing party. This success was perhaps limited to the local elections, but it has given some indication about the parliamentary elections. Maybe the opposition parties will start to think more seriously about their political line and prepare a roadmap for the upcoming elections. It is time to wonder if they chose the right candidates, or if they have made the right alliances. Only then can they avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. A solid democracy needs credible opposition parties.
I suppose the policy of polarization has reached its limit with these results. If the government insists on pursuing the same hard stance, the law of diminishing marginal utility may show its effects. Society has shown that it does not trust the opposition, but permanent tension may also erode the trust the government enjoys. A stern government, a polarized society and an indefinite election atmosphere will certainly have its consequences.
Let’s hope the election’s outcome will encourage the government to adopt more transparent, open and democratic policies.”
BERİL DEDEOĞLU (Cihan/Today’s Zaman)

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